Professors reap unfair profits when they include textbooks they have written as required course materials, some University of Maryland officials said yesterday.
"It's not ethical to assign a text you authored unless no other text is available," said Winthrop Wright, an associate professor of Latin American history at the university's College Park campus, where about 100 textbooks ranging in price from $2.25 to $38.95 are required reading in their authors' classes this semester.
Wright said the issue revolves around who gets the royalties. "You're sailing pretty close to the wind if you assign your own text unless you assign the royalties to a third party," he said. One exception, he said, might be in "new fields, fields that are just getting started, such as women's history, where an absence of materials presents a legitimate consideration."
Not all professors are opposed to the practice of authors requiring their own textbooks, however.
"You can always find an individual case where somebody might make a profit," said Professor Stephen Brush, who teaches the history of science and is a former president of the campus chapter of the American Association of University Professors. "But the money you make from having your own students read the books isn't that much."
Moreover, if the text is regarded highly enough to receive nationwide use, its author would be silly not to use it in his classes, said Brush, who is not requiring a text of his in any courses this semester.
But some students said they felt shortchanged.
"The book was terrible," one student complained about an introductory sociology text written by his professor. "It had nothing to do with the class. The guy just wanted to sell his book."