Monday, January 29, 2018

Eli Once More Rants About the Cost of Textbooks (Part I)

At the beginning of time or this blog whichever came first, of which there is some discussion, Eli would, on occasion point to the textbook market as an example of what was killing students, faculty and education in the US.  These were very well written rants and deserve another reading.  Back then it was possible to obtain less expensive paperback copies outside of the US, however a US Supreme Court Decision holding that textbooks could be imported and resold has put the sword to that as the publishers simply disappeared the cheaper editions.

Discussion about textbook price is anchored to cost which has grown faster than that of drugs, to the point that it matches or exceeds pro rated tuition at community colleges or comprehensive public institutions. But, cost is a relatively minor issue in the choice of books by instructors. Textbooks are marketed and selected based on the services offered to faculty including desk copies, solution manuals, test banks, PowerPoints and more modern apps including online homework systems. This is vital for faculty at teaching institutions who teach three or more courses per semester and greatly appreciated even at the R1s.

Increasing the adoption of OOER requires understanding how textbooks have been marketed by commercial publishers in the past and how commercial textbook marketing is changing to meet online challenges. Textbook marketing can be described as an odd version of “business to business” (B2B) marketing most closely resembling how pharmaceuticals are marketed to physicians who then prescribe them for their patients. In normal B2B transactions the buyer resells what they have bought to their customers. In the traditional textbook market faculty select textbooks for their course but do not buy them and they do not sell them to their students (of course the elderly were victims of faculty selling their mimeographed "textbooks" although the INTERNET has pretty much killed that off). The college bookstore functions as a more traditional B2B marketer, passing the cost of the textbooks onto the students, but does not specify what should be ordered. The separation between marketing, ordering and selling leads to the current economic dysfunction in the textbook market.

A modern textbook costs of the order of $250 or even more in advanced courses. This is about tuition for a three credit course at a community college. Students resist registering for courses with expensive textbooks and when they do, often do not purchase the text which degrades their performance. In order to escape this trap students have in the past purchased used books. Today they pass along bootleg versions on the INTERNET. Most concerning, they often try to work without a textbook.

Traditionally publishers resisted by introducing new editions every few years.  At this point as one publisher told Eli, they only make money in the first year and profit is vanishing. Increasingly, publishers include software access to the text and online homework systems in the packages sold to students while charging significantly more for the online homework system if the book is not purchased new. Publishers have begun to rent online editions of the text to students, but this means that the students will not have access to the information in the text that they may in follow on courses. Finally, just as the pharmaceutical manufacturers, commercial publishers have started to market directly to students and their parents.

What needs to be done, well stay tuned.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Climate betting update: dog bites man, and I'm still winning. And isn't James Annan $10k richer?

The 2017 GISS data for global temps came in at .90 above baseline, second highest ever and only beat by 2016. As I've occasionally mentioned, David Evans and I bet each other back in 2007 over warming, and we're inching closer to deciding two of the six bets we made.

Complicated bet details here, but summary is we're comparing 5 year averages in the future to the 2005-2009 average. We're comparing 2015-2019 averages, 2020-2024 averages, and 2025-2029 averages. For each time period we had one bet set around half the warming rate that IPCC anticipated for the next few decades, and a second bet set around the low ends of what the IPCC anticipated would happen. David wins both bets if temps go up no more than .08C/decade; I win both if temps go up more than .17C. Things get complicated at temps in between those ranges. David's page on the bet is here.

The 2005-2009 average anomaly is .616C over baseline. The 2015-2017 three-year average is .916. I need the 2015-2019 to be .80C to win both bets, and .71C to avoid losing both bets.

So my lawyer math tells me that temps can drop a lot from the last three years, and I'll still win. Temps in 2018 and 2019 could average .63C, barely warmer than 10 years ago, and I'll still win. For David to win both bets, 2018-2019 would have to average about .48C or lower, much lower than when we made the bet.

So barring something really weird, I'm just coasting to a win from here. Too bad that's the case.

Speaking of coasting to a win, there's James Annan's bet for $10k that should've been resolved by now - he found some Russian cosmologist willing to bet temps would actually decline. The real question is whether James will get paid. No news that I saw on James' blog linked at the blogroll.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Having a draft blog post self-destruct is a First World Problem

Still, this is me:

At least I had some fun searching images of angry crying babies to see which one best represents me. There were a few other good candidates.