Dear Faculty Member:
Professors are the single most important factor in determining the value a student places in his or her textbooks for a course. The financial strains that textbooks place on a student's budget cause many to forgo buying the textbook, looking instead to borrow a friend's book, use a copy on reserve in the library, or even violate copyright laws and photocopy the portions of the text that they feel are most necessary.
Such practices are obviously detrimental to a student's performance in a class, putting the emphasis on gathering the least amount of information necessary to get a good grade rather than the more intensive and explorative study necessary to truly understand the complexities of a subject. Often students boast that they can bluff their way through a class without doing the reading by simply paying attention in lecture.
Quite often the two reasons a student balks at purchasing a text for a class are:
- Sticker shock at the price of the textbooks.
- Feeling that the price of the textbook is not worth the use the student will get from the text.
Obviously, as a faculty member, you cannot change the price of textbooks--that is determined by the publishers. You can, however, ensure that students recognize the intellectual value of the textbooks you have chosen for them. For example, you could:
- Explain why you chose the textbooks you did as you go over the syllabus on the first day of class. Mention their merits and explain the purpose the readings serve in the class. This will make it more likely that students will read the material that you assign to them.
- Choose the least expensive edition of a book that you can without sacrificing quality of translation or editing. Many common books are available in editions whose prices range dramatically. By saving our students money, we make them more likely to purchase their own copy of the reading and they'll appreciate your consideration for their budgets.
- Talk to us about creating a custom course pack to include sections of books, articles, pieces you have written, or other information you would like in the course rather than having the students buy many texts but read only a small portion of each. Not only does this option allow you greater flexibility in designing the course, but it also means that the students reads ALL of the materials they buy. This cuts down on resentment and increases the value that students place in their course materials. Nothing is more frustrating to a student than buying an expensive textbook and then only reading a very short section from it.
- Use the textbooks. While class time is often an opportunity to move beyond the texts, make sure the students understand how essential it is for them to do the reading you assign. Refer to the texts in lectures, test from them, and reinforce their importance by telling the students directly that they will not get the full value from the class unless they do the reading.
By emphasizing the importance of the textbooks you use, you ensure that your students will be better prepared for class and you increase the value of their significant investment in textbooks.
NACS (National Association of College Stores)