A Textbook Scam

For years, it has been standard practice in the college-textbook biz to churn out “new editions” of textbooks, even in such slow-moving fields such as formal logic or metaphysics. In fact, in order to even get a textbook contract with most publishers, profs have to agree to produce x-number of new editions within a set period of time — typically, something like three editions in five years.

Everyone knows it is bogus, that the sole purpose of the new edition is to undercut the used textbook market; it’s effectively a tuition surtax on students (or their parents) that gets paid directly to profs and publishers.

Now some colleges in the US are going one better: They’re publishing department-specific textbooks — usually some standard text with an added chapter that consists of something like the department style guide — and printing an (illegal) notice on the book that reads “This book may not be bought or sold used.” The publisher then sends a royalty (aka a kickback) to the department, which usually forgets to tell the students about this arrangement.

Real classy stuff. Attention students and profs — anyone know of anything like this going on in Canada? Send me private emails if you like.