Log in

No account? Create an account
entries friends calendar profile Metphistopheles Previous Previous Next Next
One word to describe how we should feel about US higher education: - Blather. Rants. Repeat.
A Møøse once bit my sister ...
One word to describe how we should feel about US higher education:

If you're of a certain age, you remember those stickers.  Most of my college textbooks had them, as did the relatively few ones my law school made us use. (Most of those "textbooks" were xeroxed copies of cases which the school gleefully infringed copyright on and then sold to us.)  I still have a few, mostly from English major days.  It was a racket, but less of one than the new-book racket: those, you'd pay ridiculous cash to buy new and full-price (sometimes as much as 20, 30 bucks!), and then you'd sell them back to the bookstore at the end of the semester for maybe 30 percent of what you paid- and then, only, if that textbook hadn't been spun into a newer "edition." The bookstore would then resell your copy for 50-60 percent of the new price. Nice work if you can get it- and those stores did, enough to keep Triangle Book Store in competition with the Cornell-owned bunker of a Campus Store, and one or two indies on Main Street in Buffalo going against the Follett Empire on the Amherst Campus.

Those competitors are now long gone, even as those textbook prices have grown with about the same stupid inflation as tuition and everything else collegiate since I paid $4,000 for my last private Ivy League semester 35 years ago this spring.  A single book can easily go for $150-200, the updated editions are coming more often than ever, and worst of all, the cabal of professors and publishers have worked out a way to make USED virtually UNUSABLE:

They've paywalled the goddam things.


Textbook publishers have become the legal equivalent of on-campus drug kingpins, using professors as their street pushers.  Here's how the deal works: if Professor Whoopee agrees to use Principles of Penguin and Walrus Psychology, 39th edition, the publisher becomes the gatekeeper to an ancillary collection of additional and necessary information for the course.  Those things the Prof used to have to bother handing out- the syllabus, the homework assignments, in some cases the quizzes and tests- are all magically delivered by Intertubes coming out of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation's servers and right into the laptops of the little Poindexters of the semester.  Buy the new textbook, get a code!  Buy a used one? Ohhhh, too bad! Only one per customer!  This "e-bookstore" site lays out the ruulz for the kids, with every loophole plugged, every workaround unworked.  Just a few, annotated:

Can I use the access code I got in a package with my chemistry textbook for my biology class?

Access codes are generally tied to specific textbooks, so you need to buy the access code that accompanies your specific textbook.  (So you may need multiple codes for multiple books for a single course.)

Can I return an access code?

Unfortunately, you can't.   Once an access code has been purchased it cannot be returned.   To be certain, click the "Show Sample Access Code Voucher" and it will display all the terms and conditions set by the publisher of the access code. (Moral: if you drop a class, you've got a useless nonrefundable code. Oh- you want to transfer it to someone who added the course late?)

Can my friend and I share a code?

Each access code is unique and can only be used by one person. (And how much you want to bet they track IP addresses or otherwise monitor that shit?)

And, saving the best two for last:

If I buy a used textbook and the access code separately, will it be cheaper than buying the new textbook package (that includes the access code)?

Before buying your course materials, it is best to do a bit of research to determine the difference in cost between buying a new package that includes the access code versus buying a used package and access code separately. While we know you want to save money by buying used books, sometimes it ends up costing you more to buy the used book and access code separately. Also, if you purchase a used textbook from a source other than your University Bookstore, the access code may not be available for individual sale.  (Assuming the vig on the deal works about the same as it used to- you sell back quite a bit under 50 cents on the dollar and buy used quite a bit over 50 cents- that access code will eat the rest of your dollar and probably then some.)

So can I sell it with the book? Or, if I'm a hoarder like you and still have some of my books 30-odd years later, do I still get access to the information?

Can I sell it when I finish my course?

Think of codes as short term rentals. You don’t own it, so you can’t sell it.

It's no wonder the Millennials are going all Torches and Pitchforks on the establishment.  You'd think there'd be pushback from consumer-advocating legislators or state Attorneys General, but since some of the biggest offenders in this racket are on the same payroll as they (and the judges) are, I don't see any change anytime soon. The only hope would be resistance from the faculty members complicit in the shakedown, and I'd be rather surprised to see that, as well.

PS: Why do I care, when I Got Mine back when things were cheap and our only college student is Been and Done?  Well, partly because I'll be paying essentially a second full mortgage payment every month for more than nine more years to cover that Being and Done-ing, some of which no doubt included the full shot for some of these digital-managed new books.  But also because I don't subscribe to I Got Mine.  I think we can do better, for less cost- and I'd love to be part of the discussion of how to.
6 comments or Leave a comment
thanatos_kalos From: thanatos_kalos Date: February 24th, 2016 04:28 am (UTC) (Link)
I told my students to buy their books off amazon & tried to make expensive books (over $20) recommended rather than required.
captainsblog From: captainsblog Date: February 24th, 2016 01:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
How do the publishers get faculty to go along with the racket? Is it out and out bribery, where they pay to take over these "services" in order to paywall them? Or is it more the pharmaceutical industry approach of dinners and free samples and gentle persuasion?
thanatos_kalos From: thanatos_kalos Date: February 25th, 2016 03:06 am (UTC) (Link)
It's a bit more complex than either but there are elements of both. The publishers that have the best reputations trade on that to inflate their prices as well as engaging in 'quality control'-- i.e., only certain subjects are 'appropriate' for some publishers. Those subjects-- and those authors-- therefore are rewarded by not complaining as their reputations get a bump by having been published by that publishing house.

A lot of publishers offer examination copies as well, in order to get you to assign the books to students. I actually met with an acquisitions rep about that today and she did ask if I looked at price when choosing textbooks for courses (I do & only require texts over $25 if there are no other options).
platypus From: platypus Date: February 25th, 2016 12:09 am (UTC) (Link)
We do what we can at the library, putting textbooks on reserve. And, boy, there was some philosphical argument against it when we started -- when my library absorbed the former Undergraduate Library, it seemed to hold its nose at the thought of supporting undergrads in the ways undergrads need to be supported, rather than just providing research material to PhD's. We can't buy a $100 text that'll get checked out 500 times this quarter -- we can only invest in research material that can be permanently added to the collection! We managed to dodge the bullet and buy the texts, which kept drawing students into our building to use them, which is no bad thing when we're continually having to justify our existence. But the need to buy a new set every year or two, for the most minor of updates, puts a lot of pressure on us here, too -- and single-use online codes don't do library patrons any good at all. Next I'm expecting all textbooks to spontaneously self-destruct at the end of each term.
weebleswobble From: weebleswobble Date: February 25th, 2016 05:11 am (UTC) (Link)
i PRAYED for those stickers! and i'm not religious. those stickers meant so much money in savings. but yeah, my college experience was before e-textbooks existed. and i swear they only paid 10% to buy the books back, even though they sold it for 50%. so pitiful. i went to community college part time while i worked full time. the only school to use *those* books was our college, so there was nowhere else to sell them to or buy them from. and online bookstores were in their infancy then, and never had what you needed.

the biggest rip off, biggest expense in my limited college experience was textbooks. i could get tuition reimbursement from my full time job. but no textbook coverage. and they insisted on new $200 textbooks for each course! each year!

but then again... i need the physical book so be able to flip from page to page, chapter to chapter. to be able to highlight, and catch those highlights by flipping pages. i cant do that with ebooks. cant flip back thru that first chapter to see in a glance, what name went with who.

education in the US is a vicious rip of. and student loans are the biggest joke the republicans are laughing at the bank all the way home. keep em stupid, theyll vote for us.
bill_sheehan From: bill_sheehan Date: February 28th, 2016 02:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
"Follow the money," said Deep Throat.

Take a peak at what university presidents are paid now.

Like corporate CEOs, they have a pliable Board of Trustees who are somehow persuaded that the only way to retain these people's miraculous talents is to pay them millions of dollars a year.

Willie Sutton had nothing on these guys.
6 comments or Leave a comment