Professors Gone Paperless

Inside Higher Ed:

1998 was the last time that John Gallaugher, an associate professor
of information systems at Boston College’s Carroll School of
Management, used a traditional print textbook. He assigned it to his
graduate-level introductory course in information systems. The book
cost about $150. He also assigned supplemental reading — trade press
articles, online case studies and the like. Student feedback was clear:
The textbook cost was too high, and they valued the supplemental
material more.

He agreed on the price complaint, calling some versions
“oppressively expensive.” So Gallaugher stopped assigning the textbook
and began developing syllabuses from existing online materials,
including his own. He’s posted PowerPoint slides and podcasts of his
lectures online ever since.

In recent years, I have gravitated towards using a collection of brief, specialized texts, including online resources wherever possible, rather than one big textbook that’s so thick I either feel like I have to assign extra chapters out of guilt (after all, the students paid for the whole book). 

Of course, often I want the students to study a specific living author, or a 20thC author whose works are still under copyright.  But buying the author’s own book is different from buying a behemoth that includes a few pages about the author’s work.