Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Monday, September 12, 2005

I started the undergraduate class I am going to be teaching here on campus. Friday I am going to Fuzhou to teach a graduate extension course at Fujitsu. I will also be teaching a graduate course here in Beijing, which I have scheduled to start after I get back from Fuzhou.

Most of the students in the undergraduate class I know, because I taught Technical English to them in Langfang when they were freshmen. The first day of class, I stressed the importance of getting a textbook. The textbook we are going be using is published in the States, and it is pretty costly in China. But they really need to have it, because I have designed this class so that students who thoroughly study the concepts taught in each chapter until they really know them well, will be able to succeed even if they have trouble with the language. In other words, if they can read English, and they are willing to study, they can get by even if their oral English is somewhat limited.

Well, the second day of class, I asked them how many of them had gotten a book. Nobody said anything. Finally Cherry rather sheepishly held up her book Interesting. Something about it looked different. They had taken a textbook to a local printer and had a bunch of bound copies made. The cost was a fourth of what the American textbook was. I said, "Did anyone buy the regular book?" One of them said, "We bought one." Hmmm.... These kids are nothing if not creative. How am I going to tell my distributor that I am teaching a class and I need one book? But at this rate, I guess I won't need to worry about it for another 75 or 80 years. I don't think this state of affairs is good. Obviously, I can't do much about what they do with the book they buy. The problem is that the price they are charged for the imported text is several times what they are used to paying. It is a fraction of what the book sells for in the States, but still way beyond what these kids can afford. The only solution I have seen that works, is for the American publisher to allow a Chinese company to publish it in China. This is what Oracle does with all of their stuff. The Oracle Press books I use are all printed in China. They are cheap paperbacks printed on low quality newsprint, but in every other respect, they are exactly the same books I used in the States. And they sell for a price students can afford. I have never seen students copy one of those books.

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