Saturday, March 14, 2015

Why Textbook Publishers Don't Give Answer Keys to Students

If you've ever looked through the comment section on Amazon for health care textbooks, you've probably run across comments such as this one, from "Marty," about a medical coding book she had purchased.

"This book does not contain answers to any of the in-text exercises nor to any of the end-of-chapter exercises. If your goal is to study medical coding in a self-reliant manner, forget about this text. Unless you are formally enrolled in a course in which this is a required text, I would NOT recommend this book. You would have to depend on the teacher for more than just solutions to the exercises in this book."
Let me try to explain why publishers might decide not to provide an answer key in a textbook.

Limited options

For answer keys, publishers and authors basically have three options:
  1. We can make all answers available to everyone
  2. We can make all answers available to only to instructors.
  3. We can make some answers available to everyone and the rest available only to instructors.
Before we decide on an option we need to decide whether we want the exercises in the book to be used primarily as a teaching tool or a learning tool. If we want the exercises to be used as a teaching tool, we'll leave the answer key in the hands of the instructor only, so they can used for quizzes and tests. Students won't see the answers unless the instructor decides to show them.

If we want the exercises to be used primarily as a learning tool, we'll include some or all of the answers in the textbook. That way students can evaluate their own work.

Analyzing the options

Publishers and authors struggle with those options all the time. If we make all answers freely available, most instructors don't like it because it eliminates their influence on the student's learning and also because students can go right to the answer key and not think about the exercises.

If we make answers available only to instructors who have adopted the book for their course, students don't like it because they can't readily check their work, they have to go back to the instructors.

It's a Catch-22 situation, really, and we just make the best decision we can for each particular book in each particular market.

One more note...

Now, for those readers like Marty, who wanted to learn medical coding but who aren't enrolled in that program, quityerbitchin'. You're purchasing a textbook, not a novel. Textbooks are designed to be used in educational institutions. They're not designed to be used by the lay public. So don't slam the publisher or author for those instances in which answer keys aren't included in the book.

And if you call the publisher to get a copy of the answer key and the publisher says no, that answer keys are for instructors who adopt the book, then maybe you should consider enrolling in an actual health care program. Maybe you shouldn't be trying to learn, say, medical coding on your own, eh?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

My Top Five Favorite Biographies

If you're in publishing you've pretty much gotta love books, amiright? Well, I certainly do, and my favorite books to read are biographies.

Herewith are my five favorite biographies.

1 Anything by David McCullough

I will read any book this amazing biographer publishes, he's that good. My favorite David McCullough book is Truman, but 1776 and The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge are also wonderful. I found The Path Between the Seas a compelling story of the building of the Panama Canal, an endeavor that took decades to complete and was as much a war of politics as of engineering.

2 Einstein: His Life and Universe

The esteemed Walter Isaacson has given us a treasured, measured, and comprehensive account of the life and times of one of the most iconic geniuses of all time. Isaacson writes with intelligence and understanding, making the book a great read.

3 The Hemingses of Monticello

This account, by attorney and history professor Annette Gordon-Reed, focuses on the slave family that supported President Thomas Jefferson for years and years at his homestead in Virginia. Little is known about the Hemingses, even the most famous of them, Sally, but Gordon-Reed still managed to craft an enormously important book about the most intimate relationships of a most perplexing president.

4 The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism

Okay, this one is might not seem to fit this list, but it's a must-read for anyone in health care, education, or child care. The Reason I Jump is a collection of stories, sort of, about what it's like living with autism, and it's written by a boy with autism. I can't describe this book any better than Whoopi Goldberg, who called it “Amazing times a million."

5 Tie: The Children and Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement

These two engaging, well-written accounts focus on the civil rights movement of the 60s. The first, The Children, is a deeply researched book by Pulitzer prize winning author David Halberstam  and ells the story of many of the pioneers of the civil rights movement, from the pivotal Rev. James Lawson to the stalwart John Lewis to the hard-driving Diane Nash. Halberstam actually covered many of the key events at that time. While Martin Luther King was unquestionably the face of the movement, the Lawsons, Lewises, and Nashes served equally critical and dangerous roles. Their stories are completely worth knowing.

The second book, Walking with the Wind, is a personal account by one of those founders, the distinguished Rep. John Lewis. Lewis gives us a firsthand account of King, Lawson, Diane Nash; of being arrested over and over and being beaten and nearly killed; of leading the march over the bridge into Selma. Through Lewis's plain, compelling prose you can almost feel the terror the marchers must have felt as they began to cross over the bridge.  You can see, on the other side of the bridge, scores of stern-faced police, growling police dogs, and hundreds of racist townspeople who wanted nothing more than to see the marchers beaten to a blood pulp.

Taken together The Children and Walking with the Wind form an immensely enjoyable and socially relevant view into a seminal period in our nation's history.