This is my happy face

Because my copy of Evolution: Making Sense of Life, by Carl Zimmer and Douglas Emlen, arrived today.

Actually, I lied. My happy face is oscillating back and forth with my frowny face. My frowny face is saying that I’ve got too much work to do to enjoy a new evolution textbook, no matter how well written it is.

You may also have a frowny face when you follow the link to Amazon, because this is an academic textbook and it is priced accordingly. Sorry.


  1. a3kr0n says

    Not to worry. In a few years it will show up on the shelves at St. Vinny’s thrift shop in Madison for a couple bux. Sad but true. Sad that text books are so expensive to begin with.

  2. says

    Kudos to Doug- he was on my committee and I learned a ton from him- ALMOST made me switch to studying insects. I am going to see about getting a signed copy, and will absolutely use it when I have (get) to teach evolution again!

  3. qwerty says

    I guessed the price at Amazon would be around $128.00. I overbid; so, I guess I won’t win it as a prize on “The Price Is Right.”

    I was’t much over; so, it should be well written at what it costs!

  4. madscientist says

    Ah, good ol’ capitalism – education is necessarily the exclusive (and god-given) right of the wealthy. It’s an awful lot like Feudalism really.

  5. says

    I tell this thing to remember me and it never does -.-

    Programming textbooks are similarly priced (sometimes worse)

    Even odder, I had a few which had a CD included and the MS Press ones have an electronic copy on the CD which seems to just be begging people to pirate it..

  6. says

    On that note, what are some good books that go into evolutionary theory in a bit more detail than the usual pop-science offerings?

  7. rafiqmahmood says

    Thank you so much for the pdf link, Chip-Pan-Fire. My first thought was that this is a schoolbook. It is such a delight to read short, comprehensible sentences. How could it possibly be a university textbook? Actually it ought to be a schoolbook. Perhaps if it were then its price might come down.

    The more I read that first chapter the more I want it. Ho hum. Too much to buy, too little dosh.

  8. Mattir says

    Much cheaper from the publisher directly (US $80 for the paperback), and the publisher’s website says the whole book will be available as an iPad app by December 1. I know what my iPad is getting for Hanukkah…

  9. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says

    Uh, PZ, I hate to break it to you, but there is no face.

    Or spoon for that matter.

  10. mikecline says

    That book looks gorgeous. Think it’s too much to get that as a gift for my five year-old? He can look at the pics and I can read it!

  11. says

    My Microbiology book was 260.53 for a binder-ready, paperback (You have to put it in a three ring binder). My A&P book was 250.41, but it’s a two part class; BUT WAIT- they changed the book for part two, which was an additional 270 dollars, and of course they wouldn’t buy back the book from part one. Now, I know what you’re thinking: don’t buy the books from the bookstore! Well, I have financial aid, and my book voucher is only good at the book store. They also hold my check until the end of september, which is far too long to go without books. Anyways, /complaining.

  12. katansi says

    I would have to immediately deface the cover because those are some of the nightmare bugs from Temple of Doom and I COULD NOT SLEEP with that in my room.

  13. says

    I paid $12.50 for the third edition of Thomas’s Calculus and Analytic Geometry in 1969. Allowing for inflation, today a comparable calculus text should cost approximately $80. (The inflation calculator at says $79.46.) The 12th edition of Thomas is listed on Amazon for over $150. Yeah. Gouging is going on. (Tiny caveat: Textbooks have become festooned with a wide variety of ancillaries, including manuals, test banks, on-line homework/quizzes, ad nauseam. We’re paying for all the frills whether we use them or not.)

  14. says

    @ stella #4

    Does anyone know why textbooks are so expensive? Is it an economies of scale thing?

    The law of supply and demand has been short-circuited: the people who select the textbooks are not the ones paying for them. Textbook publishers are also careful to control the supply of a given edition (if you have difficulty obtaining a textbook because the college bookstore ran out – that’s a feature, not a bug).

    Gov. Brown of California recently signed into law a requirement that textbook publishers selling their books in California have to post a list of all the changed from the previous edition on the cover. Unfortunately, it does not go into effect until 2014. Then we’ll see if the new edition is even warranted.

    Short answer: it’s a racket.

  15. says

    Back to the topic at hand. In your copious spare time, Prof. Myers, would you list your favorite books on evolution? If you have done this already in an earlier post, could you supply the link, please?

  16. says

    That $135 (AUD ~2004) I paid for a tiny book on assembly programming suddenly doesn’t look so expensive. Though at the time, it damn well did!

  17. borax says

    What pissed me off the most when buying a text book was when I spent 100 bucks for a required book that the prof wouldn’t use in the class. Here is one sound bit of advice; If you are taking a class at a community college avoid anyone who demands that you call him DR Clark.

  18. madtom1999 says

    #4 Stella.
    My Dad published a dozen or so academic books at eye watering prices. They became part of the courses he taught but he didnt get a lot for each copy – maybe 2 or 3% of the sale price. At college I had to buy books at eye watering prices – I’ve even seen the author of a book taking two copies of it from the university library the week before term started to ensure sales.
    Its one of these ‘traditional’ industries that deserve to die – in the UK most of the staff are effectively paid by tax and the information would be a lot more manageable and useful as web ‘pages’ which can be reordered and referenced from a miriad of places.
    Remember a document is out of date the moment it is printed – and PDF stands for Pointless Document Format.

  19. McC2lhu saw what you did there. says

    PZ, do you get review copies of grade school textbooks as well? I’m thinking of buying some for high-school aged nieces who are unfortunately home schooled by seventh day adventist parents who ignore anything remotely sciencey. If you have a recommendation for grade 10-12 I would muchly appreciate it.

  20. says

    Why is the USED copy $250?!?!?!

    I remember when I was in college ~20 years ago, I had a psych text book that was one edition later than the same title my brother used three years earlier. The only thing that changed was the order of the chapters. None of the content had changed. Well, I guess the index and TOC would have changed, but nothing within the chapters.

  21. eclipsse says

    It doesn’t come out here (UK) for another month :-(
    On the other hand – have just added it to my staff book requests to our library for the new term :-)

  22. hackerguitar says

    From a not-evolutionary-biologist-but-think-they’re-cool person who still likes to read about this stuff:

    What’s the general take on Dawkins’ Greatest Show on Earth as a book for the well-educated lay reader? I loved it and am hoping that it doesn’t have any fundamental errors, because it really did teach me some things: to wit, that adaptation is just that – adaptation to an environment may cause features to be added or subtracted, and hence this is no ‘forward’ or ‘backward,’ just ‘well-adapted.’

    Is that more or less correct?

    Oh, and hagfish are mind-blowingly cool and complicated :-)

  23. says

    sadunlap and madtom1999;

    Yikes. When I was studying I was convinced some sort of racket along these lines was going on, but I put that down to my abundant natural cynicism and just figured that there probably wasn’t much of a market for The Big Book of Pre-Socratic Philosophy compared to, say, Twilight (and there’s a whole different rant about the decline of civilization right there).

  24. katansi says

    I think what is super stupid about textbook prices is that often for an ELECTRONIC book the purchase price is often the same or close. So everything that would have gone into print costs goes straight into pockets! I’ve worked in a bindery and for one decent print run that is quite a fucking lot of money that is no longer an expense.