Thursday, January 7, 2010

Amazon rises! Drowning the academic book racket.

Via Istapundit. Although several years too late for his own salvation, the werewolf's black heart get's a little lift when he reads about Amazon's frontal assault on the quasi-monopoly that university bookstores maintain on pricing for academic texts. During his undergraduate years at Emory, the werewolf would frequently enroll in reading heavy political science and history courses. He was also a fool, and frequently bought all of the books required for these courses. It wasn't until graduate school that he wised up a tad. He recalls certain bizarre texts of marginal content costing north of $100, only to have a salvage value of three dollars five months later when the course had ended. Yet, the pricing would promptly return to the triple digits for the marginal text at the start of the next semester. Talk about getting sodomized without the courtesy of some spit.

Being the sole distributor of these texts, the campus bookstore operations enjoyed the perverted pricing metrics because they weren't truly subjected to the efficiencies a market compels. Having options, and slightly more reasonable pricing metrics entered into the fray, should empower students everywhere. This unto itself is a small victory worthy of a smile.

Word of caution, just because texts are getting subjected to market pricing metrics doesn't mean that universities, in collusion with their bookstore partners, have found a new method to sodomize their students. Beware of "course packets." These vicious, and extremely expensive little buggers are a collection of relative articles, cases, and material drawn from a variety of sources and neatly bound into an expensive little packet. They change slightly with each academic year, so it is hard to re-use and create a secondary market for them. It is also a way to compel you to keep purchasing over-priced additions to advance your education and keep the bookstores in business. The upside is that these little buggers are very focused and deliberate in how they tie into the material of the course. Plus, they don't take up the same of amount of shelf-space or weigh as much. Here's a quick hat tip to the werewolf's alma mater, the Owen Graduate School of Management, for making nearly every required text available on reserve to its students in the library, and only compelling us to buy the dreaded course packets. It's the little things that make life bearable.

1 comment:

  1. My law school had a student-run secondary book market, which was very helpful, but even that still can't prevent the publishers from messing with the page numbers and chapter organization every two years to create a barely updated new version. I think part of the problem is the professors: the publishers then send waves of free copies to profs to get their newest editions used, and the profs generally don't realize how much they're screwing their students. Or don't care.