Sunday, April 18, 2010


In the case of textbooks that come unsolicited from publishers, 15 percent of the readers responding to an unscientific poll on my column's blog said that it was OK for professors to make some pocket change by selling review copies, while 52 percent said that they should discard them or keep them for personal use, but not resell them. Less than half of those responding thought it made a difference if the book was stamped "not for resale."

"If the publisher sent the book unsolicited then ... it is yours free and clear," writes William Jacobson of Cypress, Calif. "I see this being an ethical issue for the professor only if he purposely agreed to receive these books for review with no intention of reviewing the books, but only with resale in mind."

M.E. Yancosek Gamble of Bethany, W.Va., disagrees.

"It is wrong to sell back a book you did not buy," Yancosek Gamble writes. "I see it as stealing."

She would rather a professor either returned the copies after reviewing them or placed them in a common area for students to use.

Check out other opinions here, or post your own by clicking on "Comments" or "Post a comment" below.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business (Smith Kerr, 2006), is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. He is also the administrator of, a Web log focused on ethical issues.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to or to "The Right Thing," New York Times Syndicate, 630 Eighth Ave., 5th floor, New York, N.Y. 10018.

c.2010 The New York Times Syndicate (Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate)

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