New textbook editions cost money, damage environment


Editorial Board

Issue: Publishing companies are frequently releasing new editions of textbooks, costing students, in some cases, money they would not need to spend.

It seems like every few years a new textbook edition is released. But are these updates really necessary for all fields of study?

Some books do require updates; technology, medical, upper-level science, modern history, law and current social science classes definitely need to be kept up with the times, but how much can math and certain 100-level classes that are focused on the basics change in two or three years? Is there really enough content added to warrant the mass production of a new edition?

In some cases, when new editions are compared with previous editions, very little has been added – a new chart here, a new table there. Sometimes, textbooks will change the order of example problems or simply change chapter names and their numbering. This looks like a scheme for getting more money from the already stretched pockets of students, something with which we certainly do not agree.

We also do not agree with the amount of waste that occurs because of these new editions. With the frequent production of new textbooks, many old ones undoubtedly end up in landfills. Wasting paper is not environmentally friendly, and wasting knowledge that is mostly current is just wrong.

While it seems nearly impossible to stop textbook publishing firms from issuing these new editions and thereby increasing costs for students, there are things we think professors and students can do.

Professors who choose which textbook to require for their class should not simply pick the most current edition for the sake of having the newest available. Professors should compare editions and carefully assess the benefits that the newest version would provide.

Along with this, students who are taking classes that require the latest edition should ask professors before the class starts if an older edition is similar enough to suffice. The pages may not match completely, but some students are able to get by with old editions in a class that requires the current, updated version.

Yes, there will always be new discoveries, new ways to present information and new applications of materials, and it is understood that educational institutions need to be up-to-date; however, publishing companies seem to be trying to get an extra buck in some situations rather than provide significant updates essential to the material.

Stance: Publishing companies, like any business, are looking to make money, but both professors and students can curb high costs by using discretion when deciding if the new edition is truly necessary and essential for the goals of the class.