Regarding the recent commentary by Tylor Middlestadt on textbook prices, let me share my perspective as a published author. The primary culprit in rapidly rising prices is the wide availability of used copies. Consider what happens when a new edition of my book is adopted for use here. The first quarter, many new copies will be sold, resulting in revenue for my publisher and royalties for me. But then for the next 8 or 10 quarters, most books purchased by students will be used copies, generating no revenue for the publisher or author. My publisher has been asked to supply instructor copies even when the school’s bookstore ordered no new copies!

Without used copies, books in many disciplines could be revised only every 5-6 years rather than every 3-4 years. And prices would be significantly lower. This would certainly make life simpler for authors. Please remember, though, that publishers and authors need incentives to produce books. Relatively few authors earn more than a modest amount from their books, and publishing company employees are not lavishly remunerated.

My advice to students is, if you want to slow the rise in textbook costs, retain ownership of your books after you finish the course. I still have my college calculus, physics, and economics books, as well as my dialolgues of Plato. Maybe someday I’ll even go back to reading the latter!

Jay Devore

Department chair of statistics

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