I hereby declare – for the benefit of anyone at Oxford UP who might be reading – that I was going to require my (probably 50-or-so) students next semester to buy your serviceable little paperback volumes: Woolhouse’s The Empiricists and Cottingham’s The Rationalists. I assigned them when I last taught History of Modern Philosophy, a few years back; and it worked out fine. But now that I see they cost $45 each, for a lousy sub-200 page, 7” x 5” paperback and pretty cheap paper. What’s that about? Do I really want my students to hate me? (Do I want to hate myself?) I am quite sure they were not this pricey a few years back. There is such a thing as charging too much, given that these books are not actually so good that they cause one’s head to explode with insight into the history of modern philosophy. So I am going to put these particular books on reserve in the library, and recommend them to my students as resources, but I am re-doing my syllabus in protest at absurd pricing. So there. Oxford UP has lost a course adoption – the holy grail of textbook publishing. Let that be a lesson to you.
Let me second his complaint with my own recent experience. Next semester I'll be teaching political parties and elections for the first time in nearly five years. I usually begin the course with Anthony Downs's, An Economic Theory of Democracy, a political science classic. Yet Pearson Publishing wants $86.67 for the book. Amazon is offering it for about $60, but that's still way too expensive for a paperback. Plus, it shows that that Pearson is already marking it up by $25 or 40% for those, like college bookstores, who buy directly from them. The book has been in print since 1957, so I'm assuming that Pearson has made its money back and then some decades ago. I strongly doubt that Pearson needs to charge $60, let alone $86, to cover printing costs along with a reasonable profit. As with Holbo, I can't in good conscience require my students to pay this much for just one book.