Friday, September 24, 2010

Property Casebooks: and Pricing Issues

Thanks to the Property Prof gurus (including my marvelous colleague Al Brophy) for inviting me to post here.  From Al's post, you may know that I hope to address teaching and learning issues, based in part on my experience working on the "Carnegie Report" on Legal Education ("Educating Lawyers").

To begin, however, I'd like to raise a different issue:  Do those of us who teach property law weigh the cost of casebooks and supplements in making decisions about required texts?

I've served in recent years at chair of the UNC Chapel Hill faculty senate, and as the chair of the UNC Faculty Assembly (representing faculty at all 17 UNC system campuses).  A crucial issue that has been raised in both settings concerns the costs of student textbooks and what faculty members can do to try to keep educational costs down for our students in these challenging financial times.

I've long been a user of the Dukeminier & Krier property casebook (since entering law teaching in 1981... in part because I'm a UCLA Law graduate and knew both of the original authors).  More recently I changed to the casebook by Freyermuth, Organ, Noble-Allgire and Winokur (Property and Lawyering, 2d, 2006) because I wanted to see how its "lawyering exercises" might be used to engage students and teach more than doctrine.

In spring 2009 I adopted a new casebook by John Sprankling and Raymond Coletta of McGeorge--

Property: A Contemporary Approach (Interactive Casebook Series, West) (first edition, 2009).  Last year, my students loved it, and I did too (it was well edited, provided importance choices since it included a chapter on intellectual property as well as one on environmental law), had a very strong teachers' manual, an on-line version that made it easy to prepare while traveling, and was authored by two thoughtful professors who had also authored important and thoughtful supplemental teaching resources (on global issues in property law and study aids).    My students last year rated this casebook much, much  more favorably than others I have used.  I enjoyed teaching from it and thought all was well.  I adopted it again for this fall semester (when I'm teaching a large section of nearly 90 students)... All was well....

Until... (drum roll please), I was preparing my fall semester syllabus and tried to find out more about West's pricing policies particularly as they applied to students with used books.

The saga will continue in my next post....

In the meantime (it's a quiz!)

1.  Do you consider the cost of textbooks and supplements in making decisions regarding required instructional materials?  Why or why not?

2.  Do you know what the materials you require cost?

3.  Have you heard of the federal textbook legislation that supposedly requires publishers to advise faculty members about costs?

Your comments and insights are most welcome.


--Judith Wegner (UNC School of Law)

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1. It is a minor consideration when I first adopt a casebook, but I don't keep track of the relative prices of competing casebooks as new ones come on the market. However, if I'm considering assigning a supplement, I would consider cost as an important consideration.
2. More or less. The last time I checked it seemed that the prices didn't vary much between casebooks. And, my sense was that the difference wouldn't account for a significant portion of the law student's total expenses.
3. No.

Posted by: Tim Iglesias | Sep 26, 2010 9:47:49 AM

1. I think about it a bit, but it is secondary to overall quality for the main casebook for a given course. I think about cost much more when assigning supplements.
2. Yes. And what I know makes me worry about textbook costs.
3. I think I saw a memo about it, but couldn't tell you exactly what it says. I seem to recall an effort to get book orders in earlier to comply with some sort of legislation.

Posted by: Ben Barros | Sep 26, 2010 10:34:48 AM

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