Tuesday, May 08, 2012

To sell or not to sell...

This time of the semester I have a number of individuals stop by my office and ask if I have any books I'd like to sell. These book re-sellers are nice people, and they are always very polite. It would certainly be easy to part with some of my books for some extra cash. But here's the dilemma:

I didn't pay for these books... the publishers did.

Textbook publishers regularly send me textbooks, hoping that I will adopt them in my courses. Some of them I request, and some come unsolicited. If I choose not to adopt the books, the publishers typically request that I mail them back.

I was curious what other computing faculty had to say about the issue, so I posted a question to the SIGCSE-announce mailing list that sparked an enlightening discussion.

Some of my colleagues had no qualms about selling books that come unsolicited in the mail. Others said it was completely unethical and that the practice contributes to higher prices by depriving the author of a sale, depriving the publisher of a sale, and putting another book on the market at near-to-new cost.

Elliot Koffman at Temple University pointed out that the faculty senate at Rutgers had examined the issue and come to the general conclusion that the practice was unethical. They encourage their faculty to return unused books to the publisher or give them directly to students.

I have historically given my unused books to students. Of course my students could be re-selling the books, but there's nothing I can do about that. It seems that Harding would be wise to adopt a resolution that encourages our faculty to be consistent in how we treat book re-sellers. I think there are so many of them lurking around because so many of us are willing to sell our books. Perhaps we all just need to be educated about the practice.