Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Unused Textbook.

They're weighing me down and overcrowding my room.

I realize the importance of over expensive textbooks. I admit that I've learned from them, been moved by them, hated them and have even fallen asleep on top of them.

Even though every one of my classes requires one or more of said textbooks, in half of these classes we have not even used the required textbook. There are textbooks that I haven't even opened since the beginning of the year. I haven't needed to. In some classes, we've used them once or twice; in others they haven't even been mentioned.

I have no problem investing in a book that I will get something out of. The textbooks that I use on a regular basis are, for the most part, insightful. Is it necessary to assign textbooks that students will only need once during the semester, or worse, not need at all?

I want to be more involved with the untouched textbooks that have made their home in my desk drawer(s). Or I don't want to be required to purchase them. These brand new "used" but unused books are taking up space while depreciating in value all of the time. My college lifestyle is expensive enough, and a few hundred dollars may not be much to some people, but could possibly be put to better use.


  1. Girl, you know I know what you mean!

    That's why I DON'T buy textbooks, unless I absolutely must. This is what I do instead:

    The first week of classes, I will hit up the Crown Library and surrounding city colleges for the majority of my 'required' texts. Why buy them when they're right there in our library? I scored some Voltaire, Aristotle, and others there.

    I'll search for them cheap on Amazon, eBay, and Craigslist. Some classic texts, like Shelley's Frankenstein and Dostoevsky's Notes From Underground, are available in full online, so I'll read em on my laptop. Glen Ellyn has a fantastic half price book store called The Bookstore []

    As a last resort, I'll go to the school's bookstore for the remainder. It just REALLY sucks shelling out $100+ for one book that will prove to be useless! Seriously, books DON'T COST THAT MUCH. Like our Web Journalism text...nearly a hundo for a tiny book that is obsolete ("videos will soon be able to be uploaded to the internet!" um...); I could have learned the terms online with an easy Google search.

    Adding insult to injury, I love how Stepan will "buy" our books back for pennies on the hundred dollar bill. Thanks.

    Anyhow, /rant. I agree. =)

  2. Sorry for making you guys buy a textbook that ended up being too outdated to learn from.

    In future classes, I am going to have students' readings come strictly off the net--be it academic journal articles, news stories, blog entries, youtube videos, twitter feeds, etc.

    Considering this is a class focusing on multimedia news gathering, that method is appropriate for us.

    I am curious whether other professors are thinking of using more online content for their readings, perhaps even doing away with textbooks all together for their classes?

  3. @Tracy: it seems that more professors ARE using online reading sources, I have noticed; and that is a great idea. But hey, it's all good--we were the "guinea pig" class, we've gone through all the trials and errors so the future students won't have to. No more ZAMZAR! Zamzar actually wasn't that bad.... ;)

  4. Tracy, this post wasn't aimed at you. It's just a trend I've noticed.

    ...and don't lie, Charlotte, Zamzar was pretty bad. Oh well, it has been a good class.

  5. This is a very serious issue that I wish was more forefront on the minds of both teachers and staff of the University. I've had top purchase $100 textbooks from which zero readings were assigned.

    There should be much more thought into this issue -- the money that would have been saved if I hadn't bought the books I barely used could have easily covered the entire cost of a new laptop computer. When this amount of money is being thrown away, there is a serious problem that seriously needs to be addressed.

    Also, the concept of a physical textbook should be discussed seriously, as well. When confronted with assigning work to be done in the electronic age, a teacher can consider making every reading assigned available online for free if one wishes to put forth the effort of making the necessary scans or searches, especially when we have access to a library that doesn't charge for printing.

    I am very happy to see a post about such a serious issue, and I hope more teachers provide their thoughts on the matter.

  6. After reading the comments, I'm glad to see that some have seen some professors making the jump of assigning free internet sources.

    However, as an English and Philosophy double major, studying under the archaic structure that seems infallible and indestructible, I see very little hope for such change to occur in these courses -- regardless of advances in technology and great decisions made by giant internet companies, such as Google's decision to make available thousands (?) of books online.

    I can see how professors of media have already taken the necessary steps in the right direction; however, I think that professors should lobby these steps in the direction of professors of other areas, as well. I don't want to jump to the conclusion and claim that media professors are responsible for showing other professors the benefits and detriments, but if this proposal isn't a burden, then so be it.

  7. Oh I know it wasn't aimed at me...though I do see my textbook front and center in that pile.

    You have been very good guinea pigs. The success of this blog speaks volumes of your capabilities and I really am looking forward to working with you guys next semester as the blog evolves and grows.

    As for the comments about text books, I am very interested what Jeff Carlson and Michael Stephens think about text books vs online research. I know they're both big advocates of incorporating technology into the classroom and also devoted Domininet readers.

    Jeff? Michael?

  8. Despite my love of Kierkegaard I tend to eschew the either/or. Online research can be great and we should be on it but Kenny's Crab Shack and Medieval Emporium of Cool Stuff may not be a reliable source, even if it comes up in a google search, so let the buyer beware. Meanwhile great and even just good books are still amazing. They are metaphors and placeholders pointing beyond themselves toward our very capacity to focus, to go to deep places, to do one thing well, to contemplate, to have an attention span of more than an instant, to not be distracted by silly trivialities one right after the other with no coherence, no direction, no meaning. That's not a life, it's a series of chaotically disconnected moments. If our multitasking is destroying our capacity for depth and focus and monotasking, then it needs to be tempered. Read a book from cover to cover. What does that feel like?

  9. I would also say, in response to one of Amy's original main points, that in my view students should not be required to purchase texts for a class if the class makes no use of them. I have a meeting with department chairs in RCAS later today and I'll talk with them about it.

  10. Thank you kindly, Mr. Carlson.

  11. And this is why blogs are one effective way of practicing journalism.....