Sunday, August 9, 2009
When law professors assign textbooks, we seldom know the exact price that our students will end up paying for the books we assign.
I will be teaching Public International Law this fall at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago. I've assigned only one book for the course -- it's a new edition of one of the standard international law texts that is probably sitting on your shelves right now (if you are another international law professor, that is!). I stopped into the bookstore to see if the book had arrived. It had. And then I saw the price tag! It was more than US$174.00! And that's WITHOUT the document supplement!
I remember (or at least I think I remember!) when these books were priced at about $60 or thereabouts. That's probably the price from when I went to law school (back in the last millennium). At this rate it will not be long until we see a $200 textbook. Perhaps this book is already $200 with the document supplement.
I do not know if publishers are making more money now by having raised book prices to these extraordinary levels. I think they succeeded in creating a resale market for textbooks. (Previously, many students hung on to their textbooks because they might need them later in practice.)
When books are so expensive, I wonder whether some professors will instead start creating their own course materials and posting them on-line for students to access at no charge.
I do not think that publishers think that their books are too expensive. Medical textbooks, I understand, are often even more expensive. Is there any hope here? And what does this mean for the future of legal education?
May we have your thoughts and comments here about the prices you pay (and are willing to pay) for textbooks, and international law textbooks in particular? (Thank you to those who have commented already, including blog readers in Israel and Cambodia.)