A few weeks ago, Senators Al Franken of Minnesota and Dick Durbin of Illinois introduced the Affordable College Textbook Act, which promotes the use of open-source (free or low cost) textbooks in colleges and universities.
According to Matt Berman of The Atlantic:
“Everyone knows that college tuition costs have been skyrocketing. But, as The Atlantic’s Jordan Weissmann pointed out earlier this year, it’s nothing compared to the growth in college textbook costs. The American Enterprise Institute shows just how much they have risen since 1978.
The 812-percent growth in textbook prices is far greater than the percent growth for college tuition and fees over about the same period. Prices have gone up 82 percent in the last decade alone. The average college student is now paying about $1,200 a year on textbooks and supplies.”
So how do open textbooks work?
Subject matter experts, who can be professors, illustrators, and publishers, get together to write a book that will be licensed as open content. Sometimes there are grants available to do this kind of work and other times professors feel that they can put together a better book than they are currently using. Authoring a textbook can also be another publication to add to a curriculum vitae.
Students who are taking a class that uses an open textbook can download the content for free or a nominal fee to a tablet or laptop and print out the parts that they need. Some of the texts allow for modifications in use by peers and professors. Printing out the text ends up being cheaper than purchasing the book at the campus bookstore.