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Math Text$

  1. Mar 13, 2012 #1

    While searching the text book stores online I noticed that Academic math books are generally
    super expensive, ranging price from $150 to $300. Some texts are a few hundreds, 300 pages and they cost up to $200 or more? Come one? Please don't tell me because they have the hardcover or colors and drawings they cost more than average texts. There are many counter examples and they are very excellent books on their subjects, mainly computer science texts.
    So my conclusion was it has nothing to do with whether the text is really hardcover or colored with nice drawings (even free mags have these features) or the publisher that is expensive...or yet another famous tale that "used book industry" is causing book price to go up. Not to mention that those expensive texts have a news edition very frequent, every year or so and no significant change from previous one except for the exercise numbers? Rip of students' money? Science texts require to be up-to-date with rapidly changing science and this costs money for reviewers? Another unrealistic argument. Changing exercises order and numbers and corrected mistypes is not a consequence of a new scientific discovery :)
    What about math books? Math is almost the same for many topics since many decades...so what's going on? In my opinion it's the authors' greed.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 13, 2012 #2


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    Not authors greed - authors have nothing to say, publishers set the price.

    Publishers will tell you highly specialized books require highly specialized editing work (costly) and they never sell in amounts large enough for the effect of scale to kick in. Which is not untrue, but it is not clear if it justifies prices that we see.

    But this is not General Math, more like GD or even P&WA.
  4. Mar 13, 2012 #3
    Even if this is the case, there should be some rules to control publishers' greed. My argument is that students have to buy the required texts, and they are many across the world. BIG NUMBER = (# of uni's) x (# of classes) x (# of students) requiring the text.
    And if they say it does not sell very well and often then why make the book it in the first place? I can give many examples of books that are university texts and they are:

    1 - a few hundred pages, some are 300 or less
    2 - content is average, with some mistakes...
    3 - significant content of the subject is only made accessible online
    4 - no solution accompanied provided
    5 - over $200

    So why I'm buying this book? Only if I were a student forced to do so? Then why make such a book? Simply because millions gonna buy it. :) As simple as this.
  5. Mar 13, 2012 #4
    Note that not all books are like this. If you look carefully, then you can find excellent math texts for $20. These books are often as good, or better than books we use today.

    Of course, if you have to buy recommended texts, then this sucks. But if you're self-studying, then you can always check for cheaper texts. Texts from Dover are often quite cheap and pretty good.
  6. Mar 13, 2012 #5
    Yep I checked Dover's and they have very good collection with excellent price. However, for someone majoring in math or engineering...having to buy expensive books, makes me wonder why not helping the students...anyway
  7. Mar 13, 2012 #6


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    Typically companies help students because they expect payback down the road. For example if you give everyone matlab to use for free/cheap as a student, when they go to work as engineers they're going to tell their companies they need matlab to do their job more efficiently. On the other hand students are basically the only people buying these books - it's very unlikely you're going to tell your company they need to buy a bunch of Dover mathematics books so you can study Fourier analysis (since the probably expect you to know this already)
  8. Mar 13, 2012 #7
    In addition to no student is willing to pay for a software as much as they pay for the entire semester or even more...so it makes sense to give a special price they can afford. And this is a completely different matter.

    Personally I think when a book is priced over $60 then it's not a book anymore. For example, several calculus books have the same content, almost identical, same TOC, but use different coloring scheme and symbols. And all have same unrealistic price. I mean what the authors have in mind they want to compete? Others are not more than a dictionary of topics, a skill from all trades...no need to name titles. Others less than 300 pages in content for $350? Really?

    One interesting book I had to buy is about algebra, and it's amazing how it presents the topics. No intro, no why, no origin, nothing but a definition and a few examples, then jump to exercises with no solution, (only T/F answers), and with some BIG mistakes. No colors, no drawing or illustration, no applications, no subject appreciation. Guess what it's over $200.

    I don't want even to think about DEs books. Creativity is missing in presenting topics. "Why" and "how" is left as an exercise, not even in the "solution manual."

    I suggest there should be non-university-student versions of all these super expensive books, probably from Dover. This will very likely increase the sales.
  9. Mar 14, 2012 #8
    Can't afford new? Buy used.
    Can't afford used? That's what the library is for.

    Also you don't have to buy every single book in the known universe.

    Step 1: Go to library, get out all the books.
    Step 2: Determine the best to buy.
    Step 3: Buy.

    Link your book that you[STRIKE] want[/STRIKE] HAD to buy.
  10. Mar 14, 2012 #9


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    I think it's strange that some publishers set the prices so high. At some point, I would expect that so many students would just download an illegal digital copy instead of buying the book, that it would actually be more profitable for the publisher to set a lower price.

    I also find it strange that we don't see more self-published books. The authors can probably get paid at least 5 times as much per book if they don't let a publisher take most of the money.

    Prices can be absurd at times. I'm a little bit interested in the book "Quantum measure theory" by Jan Hamhalter, mainly because it claims to have a nice proof of Gleason's theorem. Its price at Amazon.com: $329 for the paperback, and $259 for the Kindle edition. No way I'm ever going to pay that to see the proof of a theorem. I guess I'll just try to find a library that has it. Even if I have to fly to Germany to find it in a library, that could be cheaper than buying the book.
  11. Mar 14, 2012 #10


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    Used only works sometimes. Publishers put out a new edition rather frequently. Even if the revisions are minor, a class will require the new edition, simply because the old edition can't be bought new and, theoretically, you can't guarantee finding enough used versions for all of the students.

    I have known a few students that have rebelled against this. They spent nearly $200 or more on a Calculus book that lasted them through a couple of classes, but skipped a semester before taking the third in the sequence and got slammed with having to buy a new book for the third class (not an unusual situation for adult students that are going to school part time). Some just choose to use the old edition and borrow someone else's book to get the exercises (violating copyright laws usually only costs 10 cents a copy or so in the school library).

    Personally, I own three Calculus text books. I believed reisistance was futile and actually forked out the money for a new book that would be used for the last class in the sequence, plus I won a Calculus book for having the highest score on some test all the students had to take after the first two classes. (In fact, actually, it was the highest score anyone had scored on that test. Naturally, the book that I won was an old edition that the school couldn't use anymore.)

    I think having three Calculus books is kind of cool. It makes me look smart, plus I always have one available, even if I left my favorite one in my other suit.
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2012
  12. Mar 14, 2012 #11


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    You should see the number of quantum field theory books in my bookshelf that I haven't read. :smile:
  13. Mar 14, 2012 #12

    jim hardy

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    My two cents ?

    Financialization. There's a debt industry out there enabling these preposterous costs and raking off a percentage of the "gate".

    So you have a positive feedback loop. As you know positive feedback multiplies.

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