Solution to soaring book costs

By Gus Bode

Dear Editor,

Regarding Jeff Engelhardt’s article: “Books break students’ banks,” I can certainly identify with the pain students feel at the bookstore check out. In response to concerns, the bookstores tell us high prices of textbooks are due to the limited numbers published which drive up costs. While this explanation has merit, having been both a student and an instructor for over 40 years, I have seen the cost of textbooks soar, especially in the last 10 years. Granted, inflation may be partly to blame, but I feel there are other factors driving this seemingly out-of-control spiral.

There’s so much focus on the problem, but how about a solution? In my classes, I permit students to use earlier editions of some texts and recommend they scan the Internet for used copies. For my more general, broadly taught courses, I attempt to choose textbooks that are popular, have larger numbers in publication runs and greater availability in the used book market. While I agree with Vice Chancellor Dietz about the need for up-to-date textual material in a research institution such as SIU, an instructor who keeps abreast of his or her field is often able to fill in some blanks that are lacking in earlier editions. I teach aviation electronics, which is probably one of the most rapidly evolving fields in technology today, but have found that by combining older, less expensive texts with up-to-date lecture material and public on-line resources, cutting edge technologies can still be covered. In one course, I have attempted to make the recommended text optional, relying more heavily on well-prepared class material and instructor prepared handouts. While copyright laws demand careful preparation and use of such materials, much can be conveyed while still honoring those principles.


Students as a group can wield more power then they know if they are united in addressing a cause. Take the time to write to the publishers and authors to convey your feelings. Work on your professors to offer alternatives to textbooks where possible. If enough consumers speak out, change will ensue.

Dennis R. Hannon

Assistant Professor

Department of Aviation Technologies