Choosing A Textbook in HigherEd

I’m sure professors everywhere must deal with this kind of question but its not easy sometimes. A lot of the time I’m sure textbooks are chosen on the basis of inertia: we’ve always used it so we’ll keep using it. Its just easier that way. The students can get cheaper copies if the same edition is used, and material doesn’t have to be updated and professors and other instructors are feeling the crunch of getting more done with less time and resources. That is certainly the way things were with my Intro Computers course for the past 7 years.

But now, the textbook I’m using will no longer be continued. We’re still at the 8th Edition thought the text is now at edition 10, but no other textbook has had anything significantly different about it that would entice me to switch. For the most part, the majority of textbooks in this area are identical and have little to offer above the minimum.

So now I’m in the process of deciding between publishers. Books have become much more robust over the past few years so I do have a few more criteria I can be picky about. I probably find useful books from either publisher A or publisher B. To be very certain, I would set out some criteria and study each book individually to see which one suits my needs, but who has that kind of time!? Over the summer I could take more time to do this, but looming deadlines mean that any book I decide on in the summer won’t be used until Fall 2008 to be realistic about it.

Going on the assumption that either publisher has books of equal value, I know get to evaluate the publisher on criteria that I think are important. Do they both have an online software training component? If yes, then how good is each one? Again, that will take time to analyze. Time well worth the effor no doubt, but not time I can afford to spend right now. After that it comes to the kind of treatment and response I get from each publisher. Up until now, the reps would simply come by once a year (from Publisher B, it always seems to be someone different) to introduce themselves, ask if I need anything and then disappear.

But this year things seem a little different. Publisher A offered to do a presentation of their online training software and do a preview of Office 2007. They brought 3 reps, provided pizza and drinks and even gave out branded USB flash drives as well as demonstrating some course feedback (clicker) technology they have available. Now that was useful! That was impressive! That gave me something to think about and work with to base my decisions on!

Today the rep from Publisher A (who I have now seen 3 times this term) was just stopping by and ran into a collegue and I in the hallway, handed us a CD and sample folder (which could be included in a course package of course) but then took us to lunch. We then spent the next two hours talking about courses or restaurants or the world’s problems… whatever came up.

I had to step away only because someone was waiting for me in my office. It was a new rep from Publisher B. This Rep B deals with math and computer courses, while I had previously met with Rep A who deals with business courses and neither one of them had I met before this term because they were both new to the position. Publisher B seems to have a high turn over since we have been dealing with for the past 5 or more years. After me being very specific about what I was looking for (which probably cannot be made available for me teaching the course in May anyway) he left after 20 minutes. Nice guy, he wasn’t rude or anything, but just take a look at the differences.

Its hard for me to believe, but it looks my choice of which textbook to go with will really depend on the personality of the sales rep as well as the amount of “value added” service that they and the publisher can provide. Not specifically on a rigourous evaluation of the quality and content of the textbook.

Am I swayed just because the guy bought me lunch? No not really. But it again illustrates the amount of work a rep or company is willing to go through to get my business. And they are genuinely interested in helping me reach my goals. Isn’t that what we want from ALL sales people?

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