I hate textbooks. If it wasn’t for the fact I prefer getting some money out of the corrupt bookstores by selling them back at the end of the semester, plus it seems like such a waste, I would dance around a pit of fire singing “Burning Ring of Fire” by Johny Cash and “Twisted Firestarter” by Prodigy while ripping apart my books page by page and throwing them into the burning abyss. Well maybe not… but I really do hate them… and like fire.
First off they’re overpriced. In order to stay in business, the publishers make a new edition, with nearly identical material, every year. Go look at a Calculus book from twenty years ago. Now, go look at your Calculus book from this semester. Huh, look, in 1980 they still took derivatives with the same methods… crazy! Now, with no new material to speak of, and nothing special about most of my books, why do they all cost over $100 for paperbacks? The bookstores also have to get their cut of the profits. They sell a new textbook at something like $120, and then often buy it back at the end of the semester for $60. Then, once again, they sell it for something like $100, and then buy it back for $50, then sell it for $100, buy it for $50… you get the point. You end up paying $100 for a textbook that is almost falling apart. If you’re lucky, they won’t come out with a new edition, and you can get half your money back at the end of the semester by selling it back. Usually about half your books won’t be used again, and you end up stuck with them.
Second, the material isn’t that great. If the material was good, then I wouldn’t bother selling most of my textbooks back. Especially those relating to things that interest me. Usually, a book from the local Borders will have better material for a far cheaper price. The main difference between a textbook and a book, is that the textbook will cost you twice as much, and include a bunch of practice problems without providing answers to them (otherwise, the teachers couldn’t assign them as homework). For example, my Java textbook is an introduction to Java book that they decided would benefit students by possessing. The class is a combined Java and Data Structures class, that starts out talking about inheritance and skips the entire first half of the book, for good reason. Any second year computer science student who doesn’t know what a for loop is needs to find a new major. For reference material, an O’reilly Java book for $40 would be far more useful. Not to mention the endless scores of resources on the Internet available for free.
Math textbooks annoy me more than others. for the above reasons, plus the typical layout, which consists of a quick explanations of how to solve a problem, followed by one or two simple examples, followed by several dozen complicated practice problems, many of quich requireing slightly different methods and are rather difficult without hints or seeing them done. Plus the fact that if you want to know the answers to the even numbered questions, you have to go pay another $50 or so for the answer manual… Either that, or just let Mathamatica solve them for you.