Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Publishers shift blame for high book prices

The A-T ran this article last Thursday--I just spotted it on-line this morning.  The bold headline, "Publishers: Professors drive up book prices," leads us to a story about the publisher's attempt to blame someone besides themselves for textbook prices.

There was a forum somewhere on campus last week that discussed textbook prices.  Apparently, representatives of the textbook companies claim that we are driving the prices of books up by reselling the copies that they deluge us with.

It looks like a tactic to try to get the students to look away from the other, much more significant issues in the textbook market. 

Let's start with unnecessary new editions.  Companies produce them on average once every three years--obviously in order to undercut the used book market, not because basic knowledge in any discipline is changing that rapidly.

Next, we might add unnecessarily elaborate printing--do we really need glossy paper, color on every page, exaggerated graphics, to get across the essentials of our discipline.  How much does that raise the cost?

How about profit?  According to the National Association of College Bookstores, 32% of the cost of each book is profit for the publishing company.  How much could we add to this for marketing costs? 

These are just a few elements that pop to mind. 

What we really need is a textbook service that looks like PloS.  Lets make the textbook knowledge available for public use and find a publishing track that can eliminate the worst excesses of the academic book market.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Will the Chancellor move to Pennsylvania?

Chancellor Wells announced today that he is a finalist for chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System Chancellor.

Sounds like a big promotion--moving to be the equivalent of President Reilly [EDIT: I called him Wiley in the first version] of our own system.

The chancellor does like to keep his hat in the ring--always looking for something better.

He seems to make the short-list about once a year. The last time we heard about his attempt to leave was back in October 2006. He thought about California in 2005.

I suppose I should have more of an opinion about this, but it is hardly surprising.

Friday, April 25, 2008

On-Line Textbooks Better?

The New York Times editorializes today that we should all think about using on-line textbooks, to cut back on costs for students.

This is based on a study that claims that students to no worse using them than using regular printed books.  The cynic in me says its because they don't read either. . . .

I asked my students about it, and about 40% said they would buy an on-line version if it cost less.  I may look into it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Are international standardized tests the new frontier?

As if the US Dept. of Ed. wasn't bad enough, now the OECD is thinking of developing standardized tests

Luckily, the crowd in Washington doesn't like the idea of international organizations having input into education more than they do in any other area.

But if you are going to argue that standardized tests tell you something useful, why not make it an international comparison??

You can also see the anti-standardized testers in action in the Ivy league.  Apparently, Brown, Harvard, and Princeton are admitting a portion of their students at random.

Food for thought on Earth Day!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Publishers go after E-Reserve

In copyright-holder's never ending quest to crush fair-use, we find a new chapter.  Publishers are suing Georgia State for their e-Reserve.  Here is the story from the NYTimes.

The publishers claim that some material available on campus electronically contains too large of a percentage of copyrighted material.   I am sure that by filing the lawsuit, they hope to convince skittish administrators to tighten e-reserve policies across the country.

Our library's e-reserve policy strikes a good balance at the moment, but I wonder if they won't be pressured to change now that lawsuits are in the air. . . 

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Support for grading change substantial

The vote is in.  Faculty strongly voted in favor of changing the grading system.  65% of those who voted said yes to a 12-point scale.

Interestingly, there is a big split between colleges.

COLS and Nursing were overwhelmingly for the change, while the College of Business was strongly against it (the email says 2-1).  COEHS was split evenly.

I'll admit that I voted in favor of the resolution, although I expressed reservations earlier.  I wouldn't mind having the extra flexibility, though I have gotten used to the old way of doing things.  

I wonder why voters in COBA are so strongly opposed.  Anyone who voted against the change want to chime in?

Monday, April 07, 2008

Philosophy is booming!?

The New York Times reports this week that the number of philosophy majors at Rutgers is up.  The article implies that this is part of a broader trend towards resurgence of the importance of the liberal arts. (The NYT does like to report anomalies as if they are part of a larger trend!)

It would be nice to see, if true, that students are realizing that an "unpractical" major like philosophy is worthwhile.  Does anyone know if that is true here at UWO?

Can LERT be part of a movemnt that will convince students of the value of philosophy?  Is a broader trend on the horizon that will emphasize core skills and exploration in college, rather than mundane job training?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

You will be assimilated: Join Wikipedia now!

A biology professor argues that wikipedia has won.  We should accept this and become one with the borg (forgive the Star Trek analogy).

Editing content in our area of expertise would make wikipedia worthwhile.  I am not sure I buy it.  Wikipedia can have good information on it, but both we and our students need to be very skeptical of anything presented there.  Our editing would only make students that much more willing blindly accept what they read there.

Can you tell that I didn't finish my grading over spring break and am avoiding it this week too?