When Professors Want Free Copies
by Steven T. Karris
As a publisher of books for the academic market, I often get requests for free examination copies from teachers who say they are considering one of my company’s books for adoption, and I also often get requests for free desk copies from teachers who say they have adopted one of my company’s books as a text for their classes.
At Orchard Publications, we originally had a liberal policy for handling these requests, including some from other countries, but eventually we found that the number of free copies we were being asked to send out exceeded the number of copies we were selling.
Then, too, our requests for feedback were ignored, and in some instances teachers reneged on their assertions that a textbook of ours was to be adopted and an order from the college bookstore was imminent. (Surprisingly, some professors placed orders for some of our texts through their college bookstore before requesting a desk copy.)
I knew we needed to establish a policy for dealing with requests for free copies. In hopes that our experience will be useful to other publishers, I am summarizing my thinking and providing a sample response to requests below.
Points to Consider
• A request for a desk copy must be honored; I think all publishers serving the academic market agree that a professor who is using a book in the classroom should get a free copy.
• A request for an examination copy may be prompted simply by a professor’s desire for a book and not by dissatisfaction with the text the professor is currently using in class or by an intention to adopt the requested book.
• It is important to remember that most college bookstores maintain a book buyback program, and that students also resell books they no longer need through Amazon and other online booksellers. Accordingly, future sales can decrease exponentially as a text changes hands several times, either when students resell the copies they bought or when professors sell the copies they got for nothing.
• Some publishers honor a request for an examination copy only if the professor agrees to return the book if it is not adopted. Others vet the requesters to try to determine the probability of adoption.
• Our current response for requests for free examination copies is as follows:
Our texts are the alternative to high-priced textbooks published by others, and are aimed at students, working professionals, and academic libraries. We are delighted when our texts are adopted for relevant courses, and when this occurs, we gladly provide professors and part-time instructors with a desk copy free of charge whenever we receive an order from your college/university bookstore.
However, to contain our expenses and keep our prices as low as possible, we no longer send out free examination copies. We receive many requests including those from overseas, and in many instances the requests are for a copy of each of our publications. We cannot afford that kind of free distribution while maintaining these low retail prices, and have decided that we will make no exceptions.
Perhaps your college/university has a printed copy or one in digital (eBook) format that you may review. And if your educational institution or your library subscribes to books24x7, www.books24x7.com, you may review the entire text of our books there.
You can find a considerable amount of information about our books with Amazon’s “Search Inside” feature. You will find the complete Table of Contents, the entire Index, and sample pages from some chapters. You can also review excerpts from each of our titles in our home page, www.orchardpublications.com.
Your interest in our publications is sincerely appreciated.
Steven T. Karris, the founder and president of Orchard Publications, is a registered professional engineer in California and Florida. He has more than 35 years of professional engineering experience and more than 30 years of teaching experience as an adjunct professor, most recently at UC Berkeley. His area of interest is in The MathWorks, Inc.™ products and the publication of MATLAB® and Simulink® based texts.