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E-book expansion could mean student savings

9 September 2017

From the Gainesville Sun:

Florida universities are taking the first steps toward expanding the use of electronic textbooks and other material, hoping to bring significant savings to students who spend hundreds of dollars each semester on traditional textbooks.

The Florida Board of Governors, which oversees the university system, approved a 2018-19 budget request this week that includes a $656,000 program to encourage the greater use of so-called “eTexts” and other open educational resources in lieu of the standard textbooks.

It may take some time to replicate the experience of the University of Indiana, a leader in the use of eTexts, with IU reporting last spring that its students saved an estimated $3.5 million in the 2016-17 academic year by using eTexts in place of textbooks.

But Joseph Glover, provost at the University of Florida and part of a group coordinating innovation and online programs among the universities, said the expanded use of eTexts and other open-source material “is a great opportunity for really substantial savings for our students.”

. . . .

The budget proposal would set aside $656,000 to create a catalog where professors and other instructors, as they are developing their courses, will find open-source material as well as eTexts where lower prices have been negotiated with the publishers, Glover said.

Link to the rest at the Gainesville Sun

PG has said so before, but will repeat himself:

Especially for introductory courses typically taken by large numbers of students, “Introduction to Economics” or “Introduction to Psychology” or “Introduction to Probability and Statistics”, there is absolutely no need to revise and update the textbook for the class (and make students buy a new book) each year.

As the OP implies, there is almost certainly no benefit derived from an introductory textbook published by an educational publisher compared to free materials. Reams of open source material are readily available online from authors who disclaim any copyright to such materials. If there is a question about rights to reproduce, an ebook can simply provide a link to such materials.

If a student really wants a printed version of the ebook, POD is the simplest and cheapest way to obtain it.

Colleges and universities are very liberal in adding various fees to their students’ tuition bills. If there is an ongoing cost to maintaining and updating free etextbooks, a campus with 20,000 undergraduates could generate a one million dollar annual budget to do so by charging each student a $50 ebook maintenance fee. That amount is substantially less than most students would pay for printed course materials for a single class.

Ebooks in Education

10 Comments to “E-book expansion could mean student savings”

  1. Can someone enlighten me as to why a textbook for an Intro to Psych class needs to be updated so often? What exactly is so new and earth changing in the field today?

    • $

    • It’s not just introductory texts: the great majority of undergraduate texts don’t need any changes- or anyway not frequent ones. It’s a bit different for graduates but – at least in the sciences – the students would mostly be better off reading the original papers.

      I’ve still got a shelf full of my maths textbooks, printed over 50 years ago, most of which could still be just as useful as any modern text. I’m not saying there should be no changes, just that they should be infrequent: my favorite maths textbook had a 1st edition in 1950, a 2nd in 1980 and a 3rd in 2002, so only three versions in 50 years, though the 3rd edition actually dis-improved the book.

  2. Al the Great and Powerful

    I would gladly have paid $50 per semester instead of the hundreds of dollars per class each semester for the intro textbooks I had to buy and lug around.

  3. I spent most of the first few days of every class as an undergrad with no books waiting to see if the professor used the book at all. When he or she indicated it was needed I immediately went to half.com or eBay and bought the oldest, list abused copy (read:cheapest) I could find.

    I never checked the edition/version and never suffered for it.

    If I walked into a class and was told I needed to buy a book the prof wrote himself (only happened twice ) I dropped/switched the class immediately thereafter.

    The American high education system while having its uses is largely a money machine that offers little bang for the buck in many instances.

  4. There are two reasons for forcing students to purchase new/revised textbooks wrapped in plastic.

    1. Many contain that all important code allowing access to online resources, labs, homework, etc. (e.g. Blackboard).

    2. The college has their own version of the textbook. This is beyond the “professor using his own text” but the Acme Community College version.

    I paid $270 for my kiddo’s College Algebra tuition and $170 for that college’s version of the text with a code. And, “no,” it cannot be sold back for resale. The eBook version with code was offered for $130.

    • “There are two reasons for forcing students to purchase new/revised textbooks wrapped in plastic.

      1. Many contain that all important code allowing access to online resources, labs, homework, etc. (e.g. Blackboard).”

      Unless each shrink-wrapped textbook has a unique access code — very unlikely IMHO — what’s to stop students from sharing the codes among themselves… and using soc med and the Internet to do so?

      This is just another academic publisher tactic to reap more moola, and at the expense of unwealthy students. I hope students devise a crafty, money-saving work-around to this egregious ac pub practice.

      • They are shrink-wrapped with a unique access code that’s matched with your registration for the course. You must have a unique user/login to turn in graded work. In other words, and in many classes, you’re just paying for the cord. I have three kids in college and there have been times when they never used the text.

        • I stand corrected.

          But I do wonder how many savvy, computer-literate students might devise hacks to get around this corrupt, money-grubbing system.

  5. “It may take some time to replicate the experience of the University of Indiana,”

    There is no “University of Indiana.” It’s Indiana University.

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