Via Vlorbik, here’s a letter to the editor (PDF) of the AMS Notices by Seymour Lipschutz extolling the virtues of Schaum’s Outlines as course texts and giving some suggestions for those choosing textbooks.

I agree with Lipschutz’ feelings about Schaum’s Outlines, up to a point. I’m a big fan of Schaum’s Outlines; they cost less than $20 and are loaded with precise, succint summaries of course material and worked-out problems. I

survived college physics and advanced calculus largely because of my now-battered Schaum’s Outlines for those subjects. I ordered the latest edition of the differential equations Outlines as I was considering using it for my DE course next semester, and I liked what I saw very much; and the publisher sent me a *gratis* copy of the beginning calculus Outlines and it was very good as well. I will be suggesting these outlines strongly to the students in those courses.

But to use them as **the** textbook for a course? I’m a little skeptical. They are, after all, *outlines*. I think that students in the lower-level courses like calculus, and to some extent mid-level courses like DE’s or linear algebra, would benefit from having a more fully-featured textbook.

On the other hand, a carefully-written set of course notes made up by the professor, augmented by Schaum’s Outlines and hand-picked resources from the web, make up a pretty good blueprint for a cheap, portable, and effective package of course materials that I think students would get a lot more out of than a single monolithic textbook that they can’t carry around easily and never read.

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Abe Books and other websites have really cheap used textbooks. That’s where I got my multivariable calc textbook for 20% of what the university bookstore was charging. In my experience, the most expensive courses are actually lit courses, where the professor assigns a textbook plus four or five novels.

I usually go through Amazon or something like that. Get myself a used one, and a lot of the time an older edition. It’s amazing how little the information changes while the price sky rockets.