Text book prices: What can you do?

In my sociology class today, my professor discussed the price of the textbook.  She said, and I'm pretty sure I wrote down the quote correctly,  "I know, book's expensive, but what can you do?" I didn't say anything, because a.) she's obviously just using 'what can you do' as a rhetorical phrase, not an earnest request for input, b.) discussing theoretical class structures isn't a good use of class time we could otherwise be spending on the material everyone in the room is paying for, and c.) I figured it would probably just annoy her and make me look pedantic.

But I wanted to answer the question, and this is my blog, so this seems like the best place to do it.

Here are some things you could do:

  • Teach us using direct-source studies of the sociological issues we're discussing; teach us how to use the school library to access original research, and how to read that research to learn about the history and the present-state of sociology.
  • Use Wikipedia for the stuff we're only covering shallowly, and read the articles yourself, and go over in class whatever points you think might be lacking or imperfectly put.
  • Look for public websites that present the information, and build lesson plans out of collections of URLs rather than a $100+ book that can, after all, be substituted by an internet connection.
  • (I realize this one is demanding a lot more of the teacher than it's strictly fair to expect, but) write up some of your own material, and release it under a Creative Commons license.
  • Ask past students who wrote particularly good papers for permission to use their work as classroom material for future students.
  • Teach us using mainstream books, that are subject to the price constraints of free market competition, and are likely available used or through a local or school library.

I'm not angry at my teacher for using a textbook.  Everything I suggested above is probably more work, and gets no additional income.  Especially writing her own material -- which she could then publish as a textbook, assign, and actually make money on.

It would help, though, just to acknowledge that you can teach most classes without textbooks.  That doesn't require that you do anything.  All that does is turn 25 people in the class who are resigned to paying for their books into 25 people who have a little bit of motivation to look for ways to overturn the textbook system, and let all the other teachers at the school know that there's at least someone else there who would support some or all of the above efforts, in theory.

Although, maybe the school requires her to assign a textbook.  That might be the case, I'm pretty sure that's a thing that happens.

Oh well.  I'm not buying the book.