Academic journal article Journal of Management Information and Decision Sciences

Quantitative Methods Professors' Perspectives on the Cost of College Textbooks

Academic journal article Journal of Management Information and Decision Sciences

Quantitative Methods Professors' Perspectives on the Cost of College Textbooks

Article excerpt


Textbooks in higher education are used by instructors in varying ways. Some instructors use the text as a supplement to other course material while other instructors use the text as the primary source of course material. In either case, the textbook is a critical element in higher education instruction. Stein, Stuen, Carnine, and Long (2001) noted that textbooks are believed to provide 75 to 90 percent of classroom instruction. This central role of textbooks in the instructional process is normally an impetus for college professors to spend a considerably amount of time selecting the appropriate text for their classes.

One factor of textbook adoption that has received a great deal of interest recently is the cost of the text (Carbaugh and Ghosh, 2005; Iizuka, 2007; Seawall, 2005; Talaga and Tucci, 2001; Yang, Lo, and Lester, 2003). For the first quarter of 2007, college textbook sales totaled $324.3 million (Educational Marketer, 2007). Additionally, the price of college textbooks has increased an average of 6% each year since the 1987-88 academic year. While this growth is twice the rate of inflation, tuition has increased at a 7% annual rate. Textbooks and supplies are estimated to cost students between $805 and $1,229 for the 2007-08 school years (National Association of College Stores). The problem has captured the interest of students, professors, and state legislators. In fact, some states have begun to mandate that instructors offer more choice in textbooks, provide the least costly option without sacrificing content, and work to maximize savings to students (HB, 2103).

This study examined the attitudes of quantitative methods professors toward the cost of textbooks. Specifically, we looked at attitudes toward various options that state legislatures, universities, and publishers are now using or have discussed as a future action to control the increasing costs of textbooks. Additionally, we sought to find out the extent to which faculty understand how their university bookstores are operated and how the profit from these bookstores is allocated within the university. The purpose of identifying key variables assists in reducing the cost of textbooks. Once identified, both academia and publishers can use the information to reduce costs. For this research, quantitative professors were chosen because no similar study existed that focused solely on quantitative methods. Quantitative method textbooks rely heavily on software such as MS Excel and often publishers must produce a new edition solely based on updated versions of software. For example, Winston and Albright's (2009) reason for their Practical Management Science revised 3e was

In 2007, Microsoft released its newest version of Office, Office 2007 (also called Office 12). This was not just another version with a few changes at the edges. It was a completely revamped package. Suddenly, many of the screenshots and instructions in our books were no longer correct because of the extensive user interface changes in Excel 2007. To add to the confusion, third-party developers of add-ins for Excel, particularly Palisade for our books, had to scramble to update their software for Excel 2007. (p. xiii).

The paper is organized by first presenting the textbook price problem with a review of the current literature and actions taken by various stakeholders to reduce textbook cost. Then we present our findings from a survey of quantitative methods faculty. Finally, we conclude with the implications of our research for professors, students, and universities.


Several factors contribute to the high cost of college textbooks and the perceptions of students and some faculty that these prices are unreasonable. One suspected cause of increased prices is that there are fewer textbook publishers due to consolidations in the publishing industry. Seawall (2005) refers to this consolidation as a flawed production system noting that just four firms--McGraw-Hill, Pearson/Prentice-Hall, Cengage, and Houghton-Mifflin--dominate the industry. …

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