Senators Introduce Affordable College Textbook Act to Congress Committee

Posted November 15th, 2013 in News by Alexander

Senators Dick Durbin and Al Franken recently introduced a new bill — the Affordable College Textbook Act — to assist students with textbook costs. The purpose of the bill is to overcome the rising cost of textbooks by providing states with an incentive to experiment with open educational resources. If the bill is passed, it would direct the Secretary of Education to fund the creation of college textbooks and materials that would be made available for free under open licenses. These licenses would allow students and instructors to access, reproduce, adapt, and distribute the newly created textbooks and materials for any purpose, with the sole requirement that authors of the work are acknowledged.

The bill is currently being reviewed by a congressional committee.

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Open SUNY Textbooks Initiative Releases First Two Open Access Textbooks

Posted November 1st, 2013 in News by Alexander

The State University of New York (SUNY) recently announced the release of its first two open access textbooks under its Open SUNY Textbooks initiative: Literature, the Humanities, and Humanity by Theodore Steinberg and Native Peoples of North America by Professor Susan Stebbins, PhD. The textbooks were released as part of the 6th annual Open Access Week, an international event to promote open access in scholarship, research, teaching, and learning.

The Open SUNY Textbooks initiative was established by the State University of New York libraries and supported by SUNY Innovative Instruction Technology Grants. The initiative was designed to encourage faculty to publish high-quality and affordable etextbooks in partnership with their campus library, including access to peer reviewers, student assessors, instructional designers, and consultation from the publisher, SUNY Press.

In the 2012, the first Open SUNY Textbook pilot was launched at participating libraries, including SUNY Geneseo, College at Brockport, College of Environmental Science and Forestry, SUNY Fredonia, Upstate Medical University, and University at Buffalo, with support from other SUNY libraries and SUNY Press.

The first pilot will be concluding with 15 published titles by the end of 2013, including subjects such as Anthropology, Business, Computer Science, Education, English, Geological Sciences, Mathematics, Music Education, and Physics. A second pilot will follow and increase the amount of textbooks and participating libraries.

Open SUNY Textbooks will be made available for free download at

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Rising Prices are Expected to Cause Textbook Market Bubble to Burst

Posted October 17th, 2013 in News by Alexander

Over the last several years, the cost of college textbooks has steadily increased, leading some experts to believe the textbook market bubble is the next to burst.

According to the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), textbook prices have risen by more than 142%, while general consumer prices have only increased by 44% from January 1998 to July 2013. After adjusting for inflation, the AEI reports that textbook prices have increased 100% and recreational books have decreased by more than 40%. This trend is being driven by increasing overall college costs, says AEI.

“We are past peak book prices,” says Richard Baraniuk, Rice University professor and director of OpenStax College (a nonprofit organization that develops open access textbooks), “and if you look at recent surveys, nearly seven in 10 students are no longer purchasing college textbooks, and that means the marketplace is starting to turn away from that price model.”

The textbook bubble has created movements for more open access content; students are adapting to newer technologies that may pull them away from the publisher’s traditional textbook model. Dr. Baranuik states that new models will begin emerging based on how students use their textbooks and publishers will have to adjust to stay competitive.

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Etextbook Publisher Thuze Offers Students Etextbooks for $35

Posted October 4th, 2013 in News by Alexander

Thuze, an etextbook publisher launched by Bridgepoint Education, Inc. in 2012, has released a press release on their website regarding the fall 2013 semester. They claim to offer students their digitally flexible etextbooks at reasonable prices.

According to the release, Thuze has produced over 100 titles in their etextbook library with subjects ranging from general-education and business to the social sciences and education. All of the etextbooks have been reviewed by respected academic professionalsand incorporate interactive, online reading as an important part of their design. More than 20 higher education institutions throughout the United States and Canada have adopted the etextbooks into their curriculum for the fall 2013 semester, including California State University, Georgia State University, Indiana University Bloomington, and the University of Alberta.

Currently, all Thuze etextbooks are offered to students for $35. The format of the etextbooks provides students with flexibility by allowing them to study anytime and anywhere on their mobile devices.

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California’s Community Colleges Adopt New Policy with Creative Commons Licenses

Posted September 26th, 2013 in News by Alexander

The California Community Colleges Board of Governors recently adopted a new policy for the 112 community colleges under their supervision. They will now require all curricula, textbooks, research, and other work paid for by the community-college system chancellor’s office to be made freely available under a Creative Commons “attribution” license. Similar to their previous policy, the system will remain in control of the copyrighted materials, but other users will be encouraged to take advantage of the materials for free as long as the creators are properly credited. The new policy is expected to save taxpayers money by making publicly funded works widely available and avoiding duplications of effort and expense.

Brice Harris, chancellor of the community-college system, stated that he believes “the taxpaying public shouldn’t be required to pay twice or more to access and use educational materials, first via the funding of the research and development of educational resources, and then again when they purchase materials like textbooks they helped fund.”

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As Textbook Prices Continue to Rise, Students Look Towards Alternatives

Posted September 20th, 2013 in News by Alexander

The prices of textbooks are continuing to rise and students are struggling to buy their required course materials. The textbook publishing industry is controlled by five companies that dominate up to 85 percent of the market. Students and professors are frustrated by frequent publications of new textbook editions and the consolidation of the publishing houses, which is reducing competition and allowing high prices to thrive. The U.S. Public Interest Research Group has reported that 70 percent of students admit to not buying their textbooks because of their steep costs.

Students, professors, and policy groups have been trying to find ways to avoid the high cost of traditional textbooks over the past few years, while still requiring the materials needed to succeed in higher education programs. Their efforts have produced several alternatives to traditional textbooks. Students have increasingly used rentals and etextbooks to achieve lower prices; these textbooks, however, are criticized for their convenience drawbacks, limited use with an expiration date, and the inability to resell for the initial cost. Open-access textbook programs are gaining traction and being supported by several state legislatures, but they are not currently widely utilized in university systems. Lastly, some students are starting to resort to illegal file-sharing in order to obtain the course materials they cannot afford.

In the next few years, publishers will need to adjust the pricing on their textbooks to better accommodate students or they will encounter strong competition from the growing support of alternatives.

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Akademos/TextbookX Textbook Scholarship Contest was a Success

Posted September 13th, 2013 in News by Alexander

Akademos, an education technology company offering virtual bookstore and marketplace services, recently held their annual Akademos / TextbookX Textbook Scholarship Contest. The first place winner, three runner up winners, and six honorable mention winners all received a textbook scholarship to apply towards their course materials for Fall 2013.

For the contest, students were asked to upload a photo reflecting what textbook affordability meant to them. The submitted entries showed that students believed more affordable textbooks would lower student debt, make education more affordable, give better opportunities to start a career, and provide students with more money to do things they are passionate about. Winners were chosen based on their individuality and creativity regarding their opinion about textbook affordability.

The scholarship contest winners were announced to coincide with Textbook Affordability Week, a period of time that TextbookX emphasizes in order to educate students about the benefits of shopping for textbooks early. Typically, students can find the best deals on their textbooks during the summer. At the end of the spring term and before the start of the fall term, the market is flooded with used textbooks which often lowers prices.

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University System of Maryland Starts Open Access Pilot for Fall 2013

Posted September 6th, 2013 in News by Alexander

Starting fall 2013, the University System of Maryland (USM) Student Council will run a pilot program which will allow interested faculty in high-enrollment, entry-level classes to use open access textbooks and resources. The goal of the student-driven initiative is to help students with the rising cost of expensive textbooks by encouraging professors to create custom textbooks from free online resources, videos, and graphics. Faculty members that are interested in the pilot will be able to attend guided workshops to learn about the features of open access textbooks.

In spring 2014, the student council and other representatives from USM will analyze the effectiveness of the pilot by examining student satisfaction, academic achievement, and faculty willingness to use the resources. The student council plans to meet with legislators by the end of this year to finalize details of the program. Depending on the success of the pilot program, students in USM may see a state-supported open access textbook initiative by 2015.

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Google Play Store Begins to Sell Etextbooks

Posted August 16th, 2013 in News by Alexander

Last week, the Google Play store began to offer electronic textbooks for rent or purchase. The etextbooks listed in the store originate from some of the largest textbook publishers, such as Pearson, Macmillan Higher Education, and Wiley.

Google states that the etextbooks from the Google Play store could save students up to 80% off print-textbook prices while providing features not available with traditional textbooks. The etextbooks enable users to search for a word or phrase within the textbook, bookmark pages, annotate paragraphs, and highlight key thoughts. In addition, these etextbooks come with a “sepia” reading mode that Google claims may help ease the strain of electronic screens on the user’s eyes.

All etextbooks purchased through the Google Play store will be stored in the cloud, allowing readers to access the material on a variety of devices, including Android and iOS devices.

Some, however, are speaking out against Google’s latest move. Charles Schmidt, director of public relations for the National Association of College Stores, commented on Google’s entry into the etextbook selling business, saying “It doesn’t matter what they’re doing. College stores are still the best value for your dollar.”

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Student PIRGs Release Announcement About Current Textbook Affordability Trends

Posted August 9th, 2013 in News by Alexander

As students are preparing to return to their college campuses for the upcoming fall semester, Student PIRGS (Public Interest Research Group) has released an informative announcement on their website about current textbook affordability trends.

The article discusses recent reports published by the Government Accountability Office and College Board that describe how textbook prices have increased by 82% over the last decade and continue to rise 6% per year. However, Student PIRGS believes that the textbook market is reaching a tipping point. They note that Cengage Learning, one of the largest publishing companies, has filed for bankruptcy protection, providing an example of how the textbook market is not sustainable with its ever increasing prices. In addition, they believe that the growing open educational resources movement will be able to provide satisfactory alternatives to expensive textbooks.

Student PIRGS has included a list of tips for students if they seek to buy textbooks at a more affordable price.

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