Sunday, April 23, 2006

Part of the mafia? Get into publishing.

Neha and I came across a book called "Applied Multivariate Statistical Analysis" by Richard Johnson and Dean Wichern, 5th edition. It is available on Amazon. For the small sum of $118 you can own this book which comes with a CD. It is all good till you look inside. The main features of this book include gems like "better highlighting" and important results are now "boxed". Apart from that, this new book is almost identical to the old edition. The one feature they don't tell you about is that the exercises have been relabelled. Page numbers are now inconsistent with the previous volumes, so if a student gets the old edition of the book, he is lost in class.

What does the 5th volume really add? A firm belief in the stupidity of teachers and students. Many texts now have these new editions, where the material is identical, but the page numbering and exercise numbering has been completely changed. Many of these come with a CD of data sets along with the book. I am not against CDs with data sets, but why not put it up online? Which university would mind having students download data sets? And this book has a CD with 342 Kilobytes of data. That can fit on a floppy, which tells you how tiny this information is. Even on the slowest dial-up connection, it can be downloaded within minutes. Why do we need a CD for that?

It is amazing how much students and teachers will take this rubbish. Here's an idea: why not use the old editions for a change. Let the students buy their texts online for $30 or so, which is much closer to their real worth than the sticker price of $118. Why not teach exclusively out of older editions to make it easier for students to learn, without having to take up an extra job at the local McDonalds, just to pay for the text-book.

That should teach the Publishing Mafia a lesson.