My textbook expenses

For a M.Sc. in mathematics
(rather, a B.Sc./M.Sc. equivalent combo)

  1. about 30 euros (I think) for an optional textbook on basic analysis (Thomas’ Calculus, Finney-Weir-Giordano, 10th ed); lecturer-organized mass buy.
  2. maybe 100–200 euros over five years for officially xeroxed lecture notes; including a math major and physics and IT minors.


For a Ph.D. in mathematics
(assuming nothing surprising pops up)

  1. about 20 euros for one relevant actual-real-math book.


So yes, when I hear what kind of monstrous rip-offs the textbook expenses of other fields can be, I am boggled and furious. I’d say “required” and “expensive” are a particularly unfortunate combination; but of course the combination is not a result of fortune. (A cause of a fortune? I wonder if the bigger American-style universities publish their own obligatory textbooks, or if the publishers extend some kind of considerations to them. Heck, a lone lecturer could print  his/hers at Lulu for 50 dollars a book, and sell them for 100 — mad profit! 50 bucks per student, and you could use last year’s notes! Bwa ha ha—)

(Wait, I slipped into the “amoral space-lizard” mode there for a bit. Let me center my energies and be “forward-looking mathematician” again.)

When I become a big and important mathematician, I shall conspire with a publisher to print a flimsy textbook that shall be obligatory for my courses, and expensive, and we shall share the obscene profits. Then my students shall rebel and crucify me against the blackboard; and I shall live in the memories of mathematicians as a martyr to teaching, forever.


“Hey, holes in the blackboard. Guess it’s really true we don’t have money.”

“Shut your piehole, first-year. They’re holy.”

“Holes usually are.”

“No, you twit. Holy as in holy moly, if the maintenance papered them over the head would have a stroke.”

“Feet usually don’t—”

“The head of the department. You know, tall, thin, white, bald… like a piece of chalk wrapped in a sweater.”

“I know, I’ve seen her.”

“Have you heard her?”

“Does she speak?”

“Only math.”

“But really, what are these holes about?”

“Teaching went wrong here.”

“What, someone in physics used TNT and their thumb to demonstrate acceleration?”

“I have no idea what you just said, first-year.”

“Oh right, forgot you have no minors, just a big-huge math major. Sorry; that was real world stuff.”

“Ah, the special case. Nevermind then. This was where a lecturer got feedback. These holes are where the nails went.”

“What now?”

“We’ve stopped asking for feedback since. Also, see this sign.”

“What, ‘Absolutely no hammers in the hall’?”

“Yes, none. Hammertime is in the past.”

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