Open Ed 13: OER and Solving th Textbook Crisis

Textbook Stack
Textbook Stack (Photo credit: greenasian)

“The average U.S. college student spends more than $1,000 per year on textbooks and supplies, a significant expense on top of already burdensome college costs. Textbook prices continue to soar four times faster than inflation, and many commonly-used texts cost over $200 a piece. The U.S. market is estimated at $8.8 billion, with just five publishers in control of the vast majority of sales.

Open textbooks and OER offer a compelling and common-sense solution to these challenges, and for the last six years, the Student PIRGs and other advocacy groups have worked to win support for OER through this lens.

The potential is huge: With today’s rapidly changing student preferences, open textbooks could revolutionize the way textbooks are bought and sold – the full text is offered free online, low-cost hard copies can be sold in the bookstore, and a wide range of print and digital formats are available online. This virtually eliminates affordability concerns while enabling all students to have unfettered access to the text starting the first day of the course.

This session will provide a campaign update from the front lines of the textbook affordability front, focusing on how much progress OER has made as a solution. This will include the latest developments in the public debate around textbook costs, new research quantifying OER savings, analysis of how the publishers are responding, and specific recommendations for how audience members can join or further the cause.”

Nicole Allen, OER Program Director, SPARC  

I am excited to be at this presentation because when I first got involved with open textbooks and when Nicole worked for PIRGs I would call her up and ask LOTS of questions. She is an extremely helpful person.

SPARC is promoting open access to scholarly research but they are interested open textbooks as well.

The Problem
Student loan debt tops a trillion dollars. Default rates rise for the sixth year in a row. Students often run out of financial aide before

Average student budget for books is $1200 a year. for some students, this is the difference between going to school and dropping out.

Textbook prices are up 82% – 3 x the rate of inflation. It is an 8.8 billion $ market. A broken market model – the professor chooses for the student and companies set the price.

The most popular calculus textbook from Cengage is $250. The digital version of an Economics textbook is $144 and you only get it for 189 days. The printed textbook comes with a passcode that expires – this eliminates the used book market.

Rentals can save 61%

As prices continue to rise, the cheaper alternatives are also becoming expensive.

1 out of 3 students are using pirated textbooks online.
2 in 5 share textbooks, 7 in 10 undergrads forgoe bying a textbook because of cost. 

Open Textbooks
The savings are about 80%
Studies show that use of open textbooks are correlated with higher grades and retention rates.

What Needs to Happen
Textbooks need to be improved.
More support for adoption and more awareness.

Resources to fund development
Open licensing for grants as a requirement.
FDHA Policy (2004) is a great example of a college policy.

Campus Advocacy
Students need to be engaged
Libraries – SPARC is a library membership inst.
Faculty and administrators

Student PIRGs has created a faculty awareness toolkit.

University of Mass, Amherst Libraries have saved $750,000 in two years through their work on OER.
U of Minn has created an open textbook catalog and is creating a review process.

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