Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Book-order blues

Book order deadlines are no respecter of sabbaticals, so here I sit searching for a reader for my fall freshman composition class. Easy, right? The options are endless, and creating a custom reader gets easier all the time (although no less expensive). So what's my problem?

My fall section of freshman composition is a learning community linked with an introductory biology class, so I'll need to introduce students to two different citation styles AND I need very focused readings. No problem finding essays offering a variety of perspectives on, say, biofuels, but where do I find really cutting-edge readings on photosynthesis?

I've found a number of anthologies on contemporary issues in biology, some published as recently as 1981 (!) and some priced under $120 (for a paperback), except for the one that lists the hardback price at $139.99 and the paperback at $912.18. (Surely that's a typo, right? Who pays close to a thousand dollars for a paperback book?)

Maybe it's time to explore a custom reader. The last custom reader I ordered was a disaster--late, incomplete, and outrageously expensive (with no secondary market, so no buybacks)--but that was before the online era. Today's it's a breeze to assemble a custom reader: just click to select essays, study questions, rhetorical apparatus. It's like online shopping: before you know it, your virtual shopping cart bulges with great deals that add up to $912.18. (Maybe that's not a typo....)

For years I've wondered what it would be like to teach a composition class with no reader at all, relying entirely on readings available online or (drum roll, please) in the library. Maybe this would be a good time to find out--from others who have tried it. A little help?

Argh! Now it turns out custom readers have to be ordered in quantities higher than the course cap (18). What next?


Bardiac said...

That's what I've largely done, though I do use Graff and Birkenstein's *They Say / I Say*. I have a couple readings on pdf, which I put up on our closed system (fair use), and from there have students find stuff that fits their interest for the paper topics.

I'm guessing you might want something more for the biology side, but maybe a real book like the Henrietta Lacks book from a few years ago would work? That would probably be how I'd try to work, or maybe see if the biology side folks know of something like the Stephen Jay Gould books from some years ago now?

Anonymous said...

Have them read about the Napoleon who married his cousin:
The books at the bottom of the entry, "The Emperor of Nature" sounds interesting.