Thursday, August 11, 2011

Useful for Newbies- Textbooks

It's that time of year again, syllabus making time. It also involves me making calls to my textbook reps to get any final desk copies and ancillary materials. So if you are new to teaching I would make this suggestion:

When you choose a textbook, get to know your rep. They often will make themselves known to you, and will show you all of your options as far as custom books, e-books, online materials, online courses etc.

Textbook reps are to professors as drug reps are to physicians. You'll be showered with attention from them especially if you alone choose the books for your course. You will get free samples (trial copies) and ancillary materials in an effort for you to choose to "adopt" the text and require the students to pay up to $300 for a hardback copy. I had a colleague say once, "I haven't paid for a text since I became a professor".

The ancillary materials are my favorite. I just love getting a folder of CDs that has all the PowerPoint lectures for every chapter together with quizzes, game shows, clicker questions, and test banks. I actually rarely modify the PowerPoints for my introductory courses according to my unresearched hunch that seeing the same figure on the screen and the book helps the students retain the info. Other colleagues spend hours modifying or making new the PowerPoints (or God forbid, not using them ;-) ). Advanced courses are different. Would love to hear your opinion on that.

Of course, at the end of the year, the textbook buyers come around and you could sell your trial copy to them for up to $100. You could even ask your rep for another one the next year. I don't feel right about that and I don't. (I also hope there isn't a parallel here with the drug reps!)


  1. I like the comparison between the textbook rep and a drug rep. Similar to what I see in the movies, the textbook reps also seem to take up more of my time than I would have liked.

    My tip is to help out new faculty with meeting the textbook reps. We have a lot of part-time faculty, and it can take time for them to be approved into the publisher's system (they have to do phone checks to make sure they really work where they say they do). So I always email the rep myself to tell them of the new part-time faculty that I have. This saves the part-time faculty member time, and also the reps seem to like the new opportunity to sell more books. :)

  2. Sometimes being this small is a blessing; for instance, I have YET to actually get an in-person appt from the reps. Lots of e-mails and phone calls, though. :)