Via this interesting discussion on Crooked Timber comes the topic of professors and their textbook profits.

Since N. Gregory Mankiw returned to Harvard to teach the College’s introductory economics class, 2,278 students have filled his weekly lectures, many picking up the former Bush advisor’s best-selling textbook, “Principle of Economics” along the way.

So, what has professor of economics Mankiw done with those profits?

“I don’t talk about personal finances,” Mankiw said, adding that he has never considered giving the proceeds to charity.

But in recent years, other professors have found different solutions to the sometimes awkward problem of profiting by requiring students to buy their own books, including making donations to charity.

The Record should do a similar article. Let’s help them get started!

1) Which textbooks authored by Williams professors are assigned in Williams classes, either by the professor himself or by someone else? Professor De Veaux’s textbook is used in STAT 201, by other professors and by him. In fact, this spring he is even requiring that students have the second edition. No used books for you! Is Professor Kassin’s textbook still used in PSYC 101? Some students are not big fans.

Whatever you do, do not buy the textbook. It was revised three times while I was a student, and every time Kassin would claim “students must have the recent edition.” Bullshit. If you don’t believe, grab copies of your favorite two editions and check the text side by side. I’ll be damned if I didn’t find, my freshman year, that precisely the same text and figures were present in the 3rd and 4th editions, with a two page difference between editions.

These are the sorts of games that textbook authors and their publishers play all the time.

2) What do Williams professors do with the profits that come from Williams students? Professor De Veaux donates his to charity. Good for him! That is clearly the honorable choice. Other professors?

Readers should add comments with more examples to help out our friends at the Record.

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