Phi Beta Cons

Ditch the Textbooks

In the USA Today, Peter Funt addresses the painful reality of high textbook prices. Mr. Funt notes that professors don’t have to adopt a new version of a book if that updated version puts forth only cosmetic changes. He also notes the growing availability of e-textbooks as cheaper alternatives to high-priced physical books.

While he proposes some basic steps to ease the cost burden on students, this is a more complex issue. Namely — why do certain courses need textbooks?

In business schools, management, organizational behavior, business ethics, and leadership are often separate courses with their own $150 textbooks.  These books are appealing to professors because they are all-inclusive; professors receive test banks, PowerPoints, and instructor guides that allow for less time on course prep and more time pursuing pubs. 

It’s a shame that many of the professors who adopt these texts shun an idea that’s stated right in those expensive books — efficient does not always mean effective.

The majority of the modern management texts are written by theorists who render the content into endless seas of meaningless terminology. A better idea is to forgo textbooks altogether.

I can teach three to four courses effectively and efficiently at the total cost of $150 by adopting original source readings and articles that are available through my school library’s electronic resources, combined with “Great Books of Management” (e.g. Frederick Taylor’s Principles of Scientific Management). 

I’d venture to say that this suggestion is not exclusive to my area. I urge those professors who have the ability and desire to ditch the textbook to do so. You and your students will be glad that you did. 


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