Paul L. Caron

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Anderson: Opting Out Of New Editions Of Casebooks And Saving Students 97 Cents On The Dollar

BooksRob Anderson (Pepperdine), Opting Out of New Editions for Casebooks:

The price of law school casebooks (as well as college textbooks generally) seems to grow every year. At the present time, many casebooks cost over $200 when purchased new. The high cost is made worse by the appearance of a new edition every few years, which makes the cheaper used books in short supply (or completely unavailable). New editions seem to appear every five years or so for many casebooks, and this is true not only in fast-moving areas of law, but even in subjects where most of the cases are decades (or centuries) old.

We as faculty can greatly reduce the cost of casebooks to students by simply opting out of new editions and staying with the older edition.

This makes more used copies available, lowering the cost for students, and reduces the burden on us of updating reading assignment page references to substantially the same material. Although the publisher may not directly sell new copies of the older edition, there are ample sources available from third parties, both new and used. Indeed, upon the appearance of a new edition, there is often a glut of new and used books that hits the market for low prices as the old edition becomes obsolete. These can be acquired for pennies on the dollar, saving students significant amounts of money.

I adopted this strategy for the first time this year, buying up used casebooks for my Pepperdine 1L students from Amazon and other websites. These used books were available at approximately a 97% discount to the price of a new copy of the new edition. This saved my students over $11,000 and probably saved some trees as well. I doubt that the students will miss out on any great new cases by using the earlier edition, and to the extent there are new developments I can supplement the readings myself.

But see Greg Mankiw (Harvard), Textbooks Are a Bargain

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The price of textbooks is a crime. Yeah, I'm old. My day was 40 years ago when textbooks and tuition were cheap and higher ed made sense. Today, not so much.

Posted by: Dale Spradling | Aug 22, 2015 10:24:17 AM

Students are exercising self-help by refusing to buy new editions, and it's hard to blame them.

Posted by: mike livingston | Aug 23, 2015 4:27:25 AM

I teach an undergrad income tax course, and the textbooks aimed at my students are new editions EVERY year. So I now teach the course without a textbook. There's enough free stuff online. I'll share details offline if anyone is interested.

Posted by: eli bortman | Aug 23, 2015 4:42:28 AM

Good for you, Eli. I have often thought about this, but I have found students get disoriented when they don't have a textbook. Heavy sigh.

Posted by: Dale Spradling | Aug 23, 2015 7:47:31 AM

For the prior two posters, why don't you use my free e-textbook? It can be downloaded for free from CALI at I have a teacher's manual, as well, for the teachers of the course. Cheers!

Posted by: Deborah A. Geier | Aug 24, 2015 6:01:30 AM

Thanks, Deborah. I'll look into it.

Posted by: dale.spradling | Aug 24, 2015 7:08:23 AM