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April 09, 2008

Comments

Tom

" Keeping an older edition in use can make it easier for students to buy cheaper, used copies" As you may already know, publishers often do not do this. This can result in a student paying $145 for a textbook in September and selling it back to the bookstore for $5 in November. "

This statement is highly inaccurate. If a new edition is published, the market value of the old edition sinks to about $0. Student will not get $5 for an out of print textbook, because no one else will purchase it.
The situation you describe is based on one of two possibilities: an instructor has not placed a book order with the bookstore, or an instructor has decided not to use the text again. In these cases, the bookstore buys the book from the student for resale to the wholesale used book market, which results in hte drastically lowered price. If the book will be reused at the school, and the bookstore knows this (based on having received the order from the instructor) then the bookstore will typically buy the book back for 50% of the net price (then add 33% for resale next semester).

Some bookstores do keep old editions on the shelves at the request of instructors, but this is very risky since there is no market for these titles outside of the particular institution, and little hope of finding enough replacements for those copies that students decide to keep, instead of selling back.

"New editions are often not really necessary, but are published to undercut the used book market, a market in which publishers do not participate. "
The accuracy of this statement depends on who thinks a new edition is necessary. Publishers do not print used books - they have to be new at some point. Since publishers do not earn revenue on the sales of used books, who is going to continue to publish if they receive no revenue for their effort? The used book companies?
The reason for the increased rate of revisions and higher prices is the incredible sophistication of used book warehouses and networks. If college bookstores sold only new books, as they do in Europe, then prices would sink dramatically, and revisions would come much slower. International editions are much cheaper because there is not such vicious competition with used book networks.

Dave Yorke

Dr. McC,

This brings to mind an interesting adjunct for the Global Text project. A listing of textbooks with summaries of changes by edition. I.e.: a clearinghouse for information on textbook revisions accessible to students, teachers, and the rest of the world.

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