3 Ways to Reduce Textbook Costs for Students
Textbooks earn publishers about $8 billion because students can spend over $1,000 for one semester’s required readings (source: Forbes). As a faculty member, you have the power to influence student costs by merely considering your teaching materials. With so much credible information available for less—or even for free—you can help students save money while enriching your teacher presence and building your learning network. Here are three textbook alternatives we suggest:
1. Choose books readily available in a low cost (or free) e-book format
Your selected books should be available to students in electronic format. Some companies have developed e-books well beyond the downloadable PDF—students can study content through interactive media and effective graphics. Companies like Kno and Inkling have redeveloped books to include interaction, assessments, social sharing, and for use on common portable devices like the iPad.
You can also let students buy one chapter—CengageBrain.com sells single book chapters (some under $5).
2. Choose books and materials available on popular consumer sites
When assigning a book, check that it’s available through textbook rental sites, for example Chegg, BookRenter, eCampus.com, Knetbooks.com, CampusBookRentals, or College Book Renter. Students can also rent the book digitally. Coursemart offers online and downloadable digital textbooks at 40-50% of the purchase price.
3. Use OERs and primary sources
In just two quarters, Tacoma Community College has saved its students $128,000 by adopting free, Open Education Resources (OER) to replace pricey textbooks (read more about this project in ‘Liberate 250K’ – Tacoma Community College’s OER Project).
OER groups such as Connexions and the Open Educational Resources Consortium are made up of college officials and professors who post free textbooks and lessons online. You can browse these sites to explore materials developed by others, or find a work that is no longer copyrighted (such as classic literature and history). These sites provide this material for free, and many offer downloads to various devices:
- OER Commons Textbooks
- Project Gutenberg
- Books under Creative Commons license
- College Open Textbooks
- MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Research for Learning and Online Teaching)
- The Online Books Page
- The Assayer
- Textbook Revolution
- MIT textbooks
- Cornell Race, Ethnicity, and Religion Project
Another money-saving option over textbooks is primary sources, which are documents like personal records, local government files, photographs, and artifacts. Primary resources promote student awareness of history through an author’s interpretation of past events, and analytical skills by inspecting such sources. Go to OER Use of Primary Sources (Connexions) for more on primary sources resources and for helpful links.
Bookmark This Link: This CUNY fact sheet lists more OER sites. It was made to help students save money when purchasing textbooks and lists textbook resources under various savings categories.
The Benefit to You
These cost-cutting efforts will encourage you to seek a variety of credible, scholarly content. But consider developing and contributing your own content. You’ll establish your expertise and your own credible network.
You can increase your teacher presence by developing course content into videos or presentations and publishing on sites like YouTube, Vimeo, and SlideShare. By sharing your content and ideas on these sites, you’ll grow your learning network to include experts and university leadership, and connect with fellow instructors to get access to their valuable, shareable content.
And we all benefit when our trusted, credible experts leverage the social sites to share their great content—Brigham Young University Professor and Open Education Advocate David Wiley has, among many others, a YouTube profile, Slideshare profile, Twitter profile, LinkedIn profile, Facebook profile, and Google+ profile (get the full profile list on Dr. Wiley’s site).
Share Your Experiences
What textbook alternatives have you found most useful? Have OER benefited your classroom? Let us know your story by posting in the comments sections below.