Archive for September, 2012


Remember, that $180 is for a single term. It’s another $180 for next term’s pretend textbook

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

The town hall meeting hosted by the Dean to discuss this issue will be on Thursday Sept 20, 2012 from 12:30 to 1:30 in room 284 at OCAD.

I seem to have shined (shone?) a light on a newsworthy issue in my last couple of blog posts about OCAD’s pictureless Art History Text, and how it is itself almost a self referential topical meta objet d’art.

I’m surprised at the varied articles written on the subject, and the often insightful discussions that have ensued.

A couple of notes and observations:

  1. I am working about 40 km away on Thursday so I won’t be able to attend the town hall meeting and my daughter has classes throughout the day. Would be nice if someone could log the proceedings for me.
  2. It’s been speculated that Pearson Education who publishes the book may be under the same ownership umbrella as the publishers of the original books. This could imply that contention about rights transfer may be overstated. Could someone pose that question at the meeting?
  3. I think it’s important to underline the fact that this book
    covers ONE SEMESTER, and that a SECOND edition is slated for the next one-semester course FOR ANOTHER $180.
    What the fuck? Can I even say fuck here? Is this mic on? Sibilance!!
  4. I’m told the book comes with a code or login of some sort to allow restricted access to the online material. When does that expire?

I’ve had it said to me that since the book/website provides access to all the material, what do I want out of all this?

What I want is value. With this plan, one gets a book that is useless on its own and restricted access to a website presumably for a limited time – certainly only three months of use and direct relevance. I’ll pay $30 for that if I have to and it will last about as long as the Doppio Espresso I get at the Starbucks at Chapters/Indigo when I go to buy the $50 nicely bound remaindered art book that will festoon my coffee table. See, I said “festoon” again. That word’s chance to shine has been long overdue.

Alternatively, I will be content with one or more hard-backed books, professionally bound, with illustrations consisting of full color plates. After my daughter has used them for school I can read them and learn from them when and wherever I like without electricity or network connection, lend them, use them to stop my table from wobbling, press flowers in them, and assign them to my descendants. Possibly 100 years or more of use and continued relevance. I’ll pay the going rate for such treasures, seems as though it would add to about $200 from what I hear.


It’s as bad as that and worse.

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Update: Worser and worser. It’s turtles all the way down.

In my recent post, I told the story of students reacting to an expensive and lacking new textbook and the school assuring them that the textbook is really quite reasonable. I was almost ready to chalk it up as a misunderstanding.

That is, until I saw the preview chapters. What an unmitigated sham of a travesty of a mockery of a hand-drawn-facsmile of a textbook. Scratch that, a hand-drawn-facsimile would be a step up.

For the purposes of review and criticism, here is a single example page from this ridiculous excuse for an Art History textbook costing $180 (+ tax = 203.40).

click to enlarge

Notice there are callouts from the bottom image-placeholder. When the student gets home from trying to study the book on the subway, they’ll have to type in the url and approximate in their mind where the callout is pointing to in the online picture.

Wow. I really thought it couldn’t be this bad.

I am really interested to see what sort of attempt OCAD University makes to clean up this toxic spill.

Can anyone send me a photo of one of the actual pages of the printed book?


Copyright and the pictureless Art History textbook

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

Note: The misunderstandings that led to this issue have been addressed by OCAD University as detailed in the updates at the bottom of this article, however as I find out, It’s As Bad As That And Worse

There is a lot of discussion over on Techdirt about this, and I’ll post any pics of the book and its contents here when I have them.

My daughter started at OCAD University this fall.

One of her main required courses is Global Visual and Material Culture: Prehistory to 1800 which, as you might guess, requires a $180 textbook.

Students are required to buy the newest version of this textbook, presumably because as you well know, stuff that happened in the period spanning Prehistory to 1800 changes every year.

This year, however, the textbook for Global VISUAL and Material Culture has no pictures. Students have been told that the publisher couldn’t get the copyright permissions settled in time for the print run, so students will have to read the book, and see the pictures online by following along on their computer.

There is no discount on the $180 price for an ART textbook that has NO PICTURES. Devoid of pictures. Bereft of art. If I am going to have to pay $180 for an art history book that is of no resale value to next year’s students, it had damn well better be an excellent visual reference with hard cover and full colour plates, to keep around for years, festooning my coffee table and that of my heirs.

Someone has started a petition against this idiocy. I’ve signed it because I’m not particularly interested in paying any amount for an imageless art history textbook.

I’d be interested to know how this wasn’t an issue with the book last year (or any previous year for that matter), and which Renaissance painter rose from the dead to claim copyright.

I thought Canadian universities had figured this all out but it seems they’re still waffling, and if and how that relates to textbooks I’m not sure.


From what I can gather so far, this is a new book that one commenter on the petition calls “perfectly geared to this course”. I’m not sure whether that means it was specifically written and published to be used for this course, but its early incomplete release seems to be aimed at making it available for this semester. Since another book was used last year for the same course, I cannot see why last year’s curriculum could not be followed until the new book is ready rather than introducing a new curriculum based on an incomplete and rushed-out publication. How is it that the instructor is so committed to this particular text that this very peculiar choice would have been made?

OCAD Response:

Below is the relevant section from a letter to the students of this class from the dean. An open discussion has been scheduled for this week to help the students to understand the issues. I’m glad to see the school is taking steps to address the concerns raised due to the poorly communicated change in resource material.

Global Visual & Material Culture: Beginnings to 1800 is a custom textbook that basically combines three
textbooks into one:

1. Art History, 4th ed. by Stokstad and Cothren – excerpts from the full 1150-page text.
Volume One would retail for $144.

2. Graphic Design History: A Critical Guide, 2nd ed. by Drucker/McVarish – excerpts.
This volume would retail for $92.

3. A custom reader with all the additional material we have added (which includes printed images)and would cost approximately $65 – $75 (see page iii of text for list of items).

You have also been given access to electronic versions of the full Stokstad/Cothren and Drucker/McVarish texts with all the images.

The book is complete as printed and is not missing pictures because we didn’t get copyright clearance in time. If we had opted for print clearance of all the Stokstad and Drucker images, the text would have
cost over $800.