I was lucky enough, earlier this semester, to purchase my economics textbook from a friend for a discounted price. It may not be the most up-to-date version, but it has served me just fine. The only real difference between my version and the newest is the cover.
I would struggle with my economics homework without the book, and I use the study guides and practice tests that are included in the back to prepare for exams. Overall, it has been worth my money.
Starting today, however, all of my homework must be turned in online through a educational publishing site called Aplia, where a digital version of the book can also be found. All I have to do is sign in with a course code provided by my professor, and I am in.
Founded by Stanford economics professor Paul Romer, Aplia has an easy-to-use interface where I answer questions and get feedback instantly — as opposed to the written homework I’ve been turning in since September. For my Indiana University friends, think Finite Mathematics’ homework but with a sleeker design.
I am all about the web and online homework. I think Aplia does a great job of offering help when I get a question wrong, and I can access my entire textbook online instead of lugging around the big printed version.
But what about everyone who spent over $100 on the new textbook with the fancy cover? Suddenly, we don’t need it anymore. I did some digging online about Aplia, and found a 2009 article from the Washington Post about the company. Business columnist Steven Pearlstean wrote that “publishers could move to a more sustainable model in which the textbook is priced close to the cost of printing and shipping (say, $20), while all students are charged a reasonable fee (say, $60) for what really matters, which is the content of the textbook, the labs and homework exercises.”
Pearlstean is not an expert on Aplia, and his price estimations may be accurate or completely off. But it would seem students at IU have been jipped. In the email sent to my class last week, my professor said “Aplia is easy to navigate and I encourage you to look around the site and exploit this no-fee opportunity.”
As an economics professor who has preached many times to my class that nothing is free, I would be surprised if he didn’t have that in mind when he sent us that email.