Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What We Are Doing about the High Cost of Textbooks

There is an interesting article in the current issue of the Notices of the American Mathematics Society (August 2013)  from the AIM (American Institute of Mathematics) Editorial Board.   The first paragraph:

What We Are Doing about the High Cost of Textbooks
 Let’s begin with the obvious: The price of textbooks
has risen much faster than the cost of living over
the last thirty years, but there has not been a
significant increase in their quality. We don’t
propose to analyze the economic and educational
factors that underlie this phenomenon. Instead,
we will describe our efforts to help lower the
cost of textbooks for standard undergraduate
mathematics courses in North American colleges
and universities.
Here is a link to the entire article:

In our own smaller way we have done the same thing since 2008 with our mathematics textbooks.  All of our texts are available as FREE PDF files as well as inexpensive paperbacks from either Amazon or CreateSpace.  I expect that this is the future of publishing for academic mathematicians if not for all disciplines. 

Our experience with publishing in the traditional way with a well-known publisher, who should remain nameless (Pearson!), was not at all rewarding.  The texts were outrageously expensive for the students, they offered minimal assistance in preparing the manuscript, scarcely any promotion, modest royalties, and (worst of all) they simply dropped the title from their list (without informing us) when they thought they could make more money with another one. Creating our web site and distributing our texts there has been much more rewarding.

We have no connection (as yet) with the AIM people who are a part of a
larger NSF project1 to develop open source software and curriculum materials for undergraduate mathematics education.  But we agree that this is the future.

 1 Information about Project UTMOST (Undergraduate Teach-
ing in Mathematics with Open Software and Texts) can be
found at