Most students groan when they have to read them, and some professors groan when they have to write them, but good textbooks are necessary on both ends of the spectrum.
"Financially speaking, textbooks do not justify the time it takes to write them," said Richard Jackson, professor of geography at Brigham Young University.But Jackson said he decided to write geography textbooks because he has a strong commitment to undergraduate education and he could approach the discipline the way he wanted to.
Jackson's books, "Cultural Geography: People, Places, and Environment" and "World Regional Geography: Issues for Today," are now used in about 50 and 100 colleges respectively.
Jackson said both books contain "issues in the discipline that I thought were not being addressed."
BYU associate professor of physical education Betty J. Vickers agrees.
"There really aren't any other good books on diving," Vickers said. And those that are published contain the fundamentals of only four or five basic dives. Vickers' book, "Fundamentals of Spring board Diving," teaches 20 dives.
"The book was primarily designed for our class," she said. There isn't a great demand for material on diving, but 32 institutions have purchased copies for their classes.
The text is about three years old now and, like Jackson, Vickers said her royalty checks are small.
Jackson said, "For me, writing a textbook makes me a better teacher because it forced me to focus on my course and what I wanted taught."
Though many professors may spend more time on what is termed "scholarly publications" rather than textbooks, Jackson said he believes in many ways textbooks are more scholarly.
"Each of my books is reviewed by 15 to 20 professional geographers and read by 100,000 students a year," he said. What a review committee.
Vickers said most of BYU's physical education faculty have written textbooks and she does it mainly because of the need.
"We write a textbook that fills our needs and we discover that it fills other people's needs, too," she said. Vickers has also written books on synchronized swimming and swimming. Right now she is helping write a history and philosophy book for physical education majors.
Other textbooks written by BYU professors include "The Critical Eye: Thematic Readings for Writers" by Sally T. Taylor in the English department; "Hablame!" by C. Dixon Anderson and R. Alan Meredith in Spanish and Portuguese languages; and "Intermediate Accounting" by Jay M. Smith and K. Fred Skousen in the Marriott School of Management.
Ruel Allred of the education department has organized a spelling program for elementary and junior high school students. One textbook, "Human Anatomy and Physiology" by Kent M. Van De $- Graaff and Reuben W. Rhees of BYU's zoology department, has even been translated into French.