From a very interesting piece on how Raj Chetty is trying to change the way economics is taught at Harvard (and indirectly in the rest of America):
Because Harvard has a tendency to set the pattern for other universities, Ec 10’s textbook is amassive best-seller, used at dozens of other schools, earning its author, professor Greg Mankiw, an estimated $42 million in royalties since it was first released in 1998.
Hmmm, that sounds like kind of a lot of money to get paid for putting together some teaching materials (labor which I think it’s fair to assume is in large part performed by anonymous graduate students). How does this happen?
Just like every intro-econ text, Paruszkiewicz said, Mankiw’s book contains a section on uncompetitive markets, monopolies and oligopolies— markets made up of a few dominant players that influence prices. Paruszkiewicz views the $280 textbook as a creature of a classic oligopoly, a lucrative cabal that clashes with an emerging open-source market in which professors write books for free.
(Note: Chetty doesn’t assign a textbook in his intro course: he assigns journal articles to the students.)
Asked about his little side-publishing business, Prof. Rational Maximizer had this to say:
Asked in an email, “Would you ever write an open-source textbook? Why, or why not?” Mankiw responded:
“Let me fix that for you: Would you keep doing your job if you stopped being paid? Why or why not?”