What A Racket!

What a racket the textbook publication business is. Greg Mankiw has a new edition of his textbook "Principles of Economics." What justifies a new edition?

Why a new edition? The fundamentals of economics are much the same: Supply curves still slope up, and demand curves still slope down. But a lot has changed over the past three years, and the new edition covers recent developments in economic research, events, and policy. In particular, it includes over 40 new applications, including Case Studies and In the News boxes, to remind students that economics is about the world in which they live.

I have my doubts about whether any "cutting edge" economic research is required in an introductory econ text. Forty new applications are not necessarily better than the old applications. How about just issuing a brief paperback supplement to the current edition for those "In the News" bits? You could issue such a supplement every year, or have it on a website. Wouldn't that be more up-to-date than a new edition every five years or so, and thus be better for students?

Call me cynical, but I suspect there is another reason for a new edition. It has a list price of $193.95. Heaven forbid there be a market for used textbooks!