The profits from making an International Edition of Solomon, Berg & Martin’s Biology (9/e) are kept lower than they are in the west. The book retails for about S$60 in Singapore, and this recommended text for LSM1103 Biodiversity has a potential market of 550 students from the Life Sciences 1st year cohort. Not all students will buy the book and some use their existing A level alternative of Campbell Biology (9/e).
With United States Supreme Court copyright decision Kirtsaeng vs Wiley 2012, however, these small Asian markets over Asia have become now a source of cheap books which will threaten the publisher’s larger US market. The 9th edition of Solomon et al. costs about S$150 there and imports from Asia will collapse the demand for US versions.
So to protect their US market, there is a feeling that publishers may stop publishing International Editions. And students will find only a very expensive US edition of Solomon in the co-op. Which they won’t buy.
In any case, I obviously won’t be recommending a $150 text.
A few weeks earlier, my new Botany and Microbiology colleagues in the module easily agreed that we all use the same text book for LSM1103 Biodiversity. So that finally reduced the recommended text from three to one.
Now we aren’t using the the entire book, just the section which deal with topics in biodiversity. So students don’t actually need 80% of the book they would purchase. Happily, publisher reps said they can easily arrange for a “custom print” of the relevant single section in the books. This would reduce the weight by about 80% and probably halve the cost.
Then I asked about e-versions of the book, and publishers all agreed to add a time-limited version for only marginal increase in cost.
So now, students will be happy with the cheaper, lighter texts with their optional e-versions. Publishers are happy to provide these customised options for our very specific needs, as there is no threat of piracy or legitimate resale to the large US market.
And I’ll be happy because more undergraduates will actually be reading their texts.