And the Idiot Prize goes to…Bedford/St. Martin’s

This week’s mail, by the numbers:

1. 30 copies of America’s History, Sixth Edition (Henretta, Brody, and Dumenil).
2. There are 22 members of the department.
3. 8 members of the department actually teach American history.
4. 6 of the books were sent to faculty who no longer work here or are retired.
5. 6 of the books were sent to faculty who do not teach American history at all.
6. 2 of the books were sent to our administrative assistants.

Let me run that by you again: Bedford/St. Martin’s sent THIRTY copies of a textbook that will cost upwards of NINETY DOLLARS each (ed. note: my pricing based on Amazon’s price for the fifth edition) to a department of TWENTY-TWO faculty, and of those THIRTY copies, FOURTEEN were addressed to retired or otherwise departed faculty, non-Americanist faculty, and administrative assistants, and in our department, only EIGHT faculty teach American history. In other words, Bedford/St. Martin’s sent THIRTY copies when EIGHT would have sufficed.

Who is running the marketing department over there? No wonder textbooks cost so much…undergraduates have to bear the cost of blanket marketing techniques.

Which is why I will NOT be adopting America’s History, Sixth Edition as my textbook in the American survey next fall. Come to think of it, maybe I won’t use a textbook at all.

***UPDATE*** I just received an email from Amazon telling my that America’s History, Sixth Edition is now available for purchase at the bargain price of $93.95.


10 thoughts on “

  1. Ah, good to see that I have corporate company in my complete inability to do math!I’ve gradually moved away from relying on textbooks in the survey courses, making them both optional and available on reserve in the library. Textbooks tend to cram lots of information with very little context. They are expensive and seem to come with all of these CDs and extra bells and whistles that add to the cost for the students (my god, are they really almost $100 these days!) If you are also trying to get your students to think critically about the subject and the texts, they don’t really help the neopyhte in that respect.What would be your reason (aside from that mentioned in the post) to seriously consider not using a traditional textbook.

  2. Welcome to the wonderful world of textbook spam. The latest item to enter my mailbox (I am an early medievalist) was a copy of Isserman and Kazin’s _America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960’s_. Go figure.I keep a pile of these and other unwanted textbooks by my door. A few times a semester a used book seller comes around and they get transformed into beer money.mmmmmm BEERCheers,Mike Davidson

  3. I am also interested to here how you would teach the course without the textbook. I’ve been using the _Brief American Pageant_ and my studets absolutely hate it. It is incredibly boring and the poor metaphors push you to the verge of burning it. What are the alternatives in a survey course?Kevin at Civil War Memory

  4. Hey, when I taught an American history survey at UNH many, many, moons ago, I used a little ditty entitled, “Synopsis of American History volumes I and II. This was good for general chronology and who, what, where, and when. It was very short on analysis and I used monographs for that purpose. I made the text book “optional”, but kept a copy on reserve in the library. No one complained! By the way on, the 8th edition is priced at $22. Just my two cents worth!You Know Who

  5. Never use a textbook, girlfriend — ever. It’s the lazy person’s out. Primary sources at 150 pp. or less. Students need to be disabused of hteidea htat htere is such a thing as knowing everything.TR

  6. Hey Rebecca, — I’m on spring break this week, but had to go in to school to pick something up and lo and behold there was a box from Bedford/St. Martins waiting for me. I thought this is too good to be true, but inside I found a copy of _America’s History_. Now I have the 5th and 6th editions.

  7. tenured radical, I completely agree with you on the primary sources (and not just because I happen to work at a project that produces such volumes). The students actually tend to like those because they feel that they are getting closer to the “real” history. Of course, they also have to be disabused of the idea of “real” history, too, but documents are one step closer.

  8. I use a textbook and primary sources. But then. I teach world civ, and there is just too much information. Even with western civ, I would feel the need to at least put a textbook on reserve. There is just not enough time to cover everything unless the students have read some of it in advance.

  9. 30 textbooks? It sounds like their marketing representative in that area isn’t doing her job. I haven’t seen them pull that off at Georgetown or George Mason, and their representative here is pretty on top of things.

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