Scott Proposes an End to Taxes on Textbooks

Posted February 9th, 2015 in News by Micah Jenkins

In an effort to reduce the price of college for Florida students, Governor Rick Scott is proposing an end to state and local sales taxes on college textbooks.  This new plan would cost the State of Florida approximately $40 million, but “would save full-time students at least $60 per year.”  The textbook savings plan was released in conjunction with $23.5 million plan to expand Bright Futures Scholarships to include summer courses.  In total, this particular proposal to the 2015-2016 budget would cost approximately $65 million.

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Creators of Textbook Price Comparison Tool Face Potential Litigation

Posted January 12th, 2015 in News by Micah Jenkins

Following a recent Reddit discussion thread, a new textbook price comparison tool called Occupy The Bookstore has grown in popularity.  According to the Reddit thread, Occupy The Bookstore is “a Chrome Plugin which overlays competitive market prices for textbooks directly on the college bookstore website.”  When a user installs the extension, they see their bookstore’s prices for textbooks, as well as pricing from various online vendors.

The creators of the chrome extension, Peter Frank and Ben Halpern, are also the founders of, a site that helps buyers find the best prices for textbooks.  They are now facing litigation from the Follett Higher Education Group, the largest campus bookstore operator in the US.  The Follett Group recently emailed Frank and Halpern and asked that they remove the extension on the basis that it “is effectively changing the presentation of the information on the screen.”  Follett then stated that legal action would be pursued in the event of noncompliance.  Unfortunately for Follett, their requests seem to have generated an unforeseen amount of publicity for the plugin; Occupy The Bookstore has now been downloaded from the Chrome Web Store more than 20,000 times and its creators have no intentions of removing it.

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New Open Courseware Released

Posted November 13th, 2014 in Faculty, Graduates, Staff, stories, Undergraduates by Micah Jenkins

On October 31, 2014 Dr. Autar Kaw, professor of mechanical engineering at the University of South Florida, simultaneously released all of the resources needed to complete the online, university level course “Introduction to Matrix Algebra.” As an OpenCourseWare (OCW), the course is free and open to all users.

The courseware includes:

  • 150 YouTube video lectures (approximately 14 viewing hours) with transcripts
  • 10 textbook chapters, presented in both PDF and DOC formats
  • 10 online multiple-choice quizzes with complete solutions
  • 10 problem sets
  • 10 PowerPoint presentations
  • 6 applied problems in engineering and science

and covers the following topics:

  • Chapter 1: Introduction
  • Chapter 2: Vectors
  • Chapter 3: Binary Matrix Operations
  • Chapter 4: Unary Matrix Operations
  • Chapter 5: System of Equations
  • Chapter 6: Gaussian Elimination Method
  • Chapter 7: LU Decomposition
  • Chapter 8: Gauss-Seidel Method
  • Chapter 9: Adequacy of Solutions
  • Chapter 10: Eigenvalues and Eigenvectors

Introduction to Matrix Algebra is not the first OCW delivered by Kaw.  It follows the 2009 release of the OCW titled “Holistic Numerical Methods,” which receives more than a million page views annually.  The associated YouTube lectures received more than 900,000 views last year, and the “Numerical Methods Guy” blog now receives 150,000 annual visitors.

Kaw, along with his colleagues from around the nation, have been developing, implementing, refining and assessing these online resources since 2002.  They are funded in part by the National Science Foundation, and, to date, have received four NSF grants totaling more than $1.5 million.

For questions or more information, please contact Dr. Autar Kaw.

Seeking Proposals for Open Access Pilot

Posted November 5th, 2014 in Faculty, stories by Micah Jenkins

November 5, 2014

USF Innovative Education (InEd) and the USF Libraries are partnering to implement a pilot program that encourages the development of open access e-textbooks at the University of South Florida and seek proposals for their development by USF faculty members. Open access e-textbooks are digital in format and made freely available over the web in an effort to support creativity and innovation around the world. InEd and the Libraries are committed to publishing open access e-textbooks in order to support students from the perspective of both e-textbook affordability and the enhanced learning opportunities provided by the digital format.

A USF faculty member must be the lead author on the proposed e-textbook. The manuscript selected for consideration will undergo peer review and will be reviewed at its completion by the USF Open Access E-textbook Committee. The e-textbook may include original multi-media and interactive content. Technical support for the development of these features will be provided to the author(s) by InEd. InEd will also provide oversight during the process leading to the completion of the e-textbook. The USF Libraries will be responsible for hosting and archiving USF’s open access e-textbooks, delivering the e-textbooks in multiple formats (PDF, HTML, ePub, iBook), support for the peer review process, and ISBN.

The e-textbook should be a comprehensive work geared toward a specific field of study. Preference will be given to proposals with applicability toward multiple, high-enrollment, and online undergraduate courses. Copyright will be held by the USF author(s) and will be published under a Creative Commons ( license.

The author will be compensated with an award of $12,500, plus an additional $7,500 which could be used for such purposes as course buy-out, research support, and production services. An itemized budget breakdown for the $7,500 will be required with the application. Applications will be reviewed by the USF Open Access E-textbook Committee. Awards will be based on the quality and strength of application and how well it meets the requirements. For funded proposals, it is our intention to distribute a portion of the award in the spring 2015 semester and the remaining funds after completion of the project. The author agrees to revise as needed during peer-review and to complete 100% of the e-textbook by July 31, 2015.

The Call for Proposals will be distributed on October 10, 2014 and proposals are due November 10, 2014.  Selected authors will be notified by November 30, 2014.  Anticipated e-textbook is to be completed by the last day of class, summer session 2015. The e-textbook must be available for fall, 2015.

To help us evaluate your project, we need to know more about you and your book. Please submit a proposal that provides necessary information by completing the form below:

Proposal Submission Form

Send proposal and C.V./resume for each author as email attachments to:

Cynthia DeLuca, AVP Innovative Education,

Update: November 3, 2015

The proposal of Dr. Jenifer Schneider, professor of Childhood Literacy Education was selected for participation in the 2014 USF Open Access Pilot. Dr. Schneider’s e-textbook is expected to be published in December 2015.

The “Somebody Else’s Money” Problem: NPR Explores the Rise in College Textbook Prices

Posted October 13th, 2014 in News by Micah Jenkins

David Kestenbaum and Jacob Goldstein of NPR’s Planet Money assert that the rising cost of textbooks can, in part, be attributed to one simple economic tenet: the “principal-agent problem,” or as Kestenbaum and Goldstein jokingly refer to it, “the somebody else’s money problem.”

The principal-agent problem is most simply described as a conflict of interest that arises when the person who decides to buy something (the agent) isn’t the person who has to pay for it (the principal). Within the context of textbook adoptions, students are the principals, tacitly agreeing to let their professors choose course materials on their behalf. College professors act as the agents, and make the final decision regarding which textbooks will be required for their courses. The conflict arises when sales representatives from publishing companies present their textbooks to professors for adoption. They expand on the expensive extra features and attributes of the textbooks they are trying to sell and never mention the price of the items. Professors never think to ask about the price because it is the students who ultimately have to bear the burden of the cost.

Other factors contributing to the high cost of textbooks include a growing used textbook market, textbook rental options, the availability of illegal textbook downloads, and students choosing not to purchase the textbook at all. This creates a cyclical problem wherein students continue to find creative ways to avoid buying textbooks, and publishers continue to raise their prices to recover profit losses.

In an effort to maintain control of the textbook market, and offer cheaper solutions for students, some publishers are moving towards the production of E-textbooks. However, E-textbooks do not pose a perfect solution for students because there is no used market for them, and they cannot be resold.

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