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Mon Dec 16, 2013, 02:02 PM

University of Utah explores using free, online, open-source textbooks

For $150, a University of Utah student could buy a few tanks of gas, a couple of weeks’ worth of groceries — or maybe a textbook for an English class.

"Books) can be a financial burden," said Rachel Wootten, a geography and political-science major.

The cost of textbooks has risen a staggering 812 percent since 1978, according to an analysis by the American Enterprise Institute. At the U., the average student cost for books and supplies is $1,000 a year, on top of nearly $7,000 a year for in-state tuition.

"The prices are just ridiculous in my opinion," said Dave Nelson, book manager at the university bookstore. "They’re just nuts, how much they’re going up."

But a new U. Academic Senate committee wants to do something about it. The group last week voted to explore saving students money by using open-source textbooks — books licensed to be downloaded for free online. Senate president Allyson Mower, a U. librarian, said she’s aiming to cut costs by $500 a year.


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Reply University of Utah explores using free, online, open-source textbooks (Original post)
Redfairen Dec 2013 OP
mike_c Dec 2013 #1
exboyfil Dec 2013 #2

Response to Redfairen (Original post)

Mon Dec 16, 2013, 02:18 PM

1. I completely understand this...

I've dropped texts from one of my main classes and now use extensive digital handouts that are, in essence, a self authored entry level text, with topic coverage limited to the subjects I cover. The cost of the two texts that I'd otherwise need to use was just too burdensome for students.

But I still think it's a shame. I have most of my college texts still, on bookshelves in my office or at home, and they are prized possessions I've owned and used for half my life. I would never prefer electronic files to actual, ink on paper books. They are expensive, but they're a lifetime investment.

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Response to Redfairen (Original post)

Mon Dec 16, 2013, 03:26 PM

2. My daughter lived through an online textbook this semester

One of the first things I did was pay to have it printed. I later got the earlier edition online (very cheap). The textbook was simply awful - the earlier edition is described on Amazon as follows: "If you are reading this it means you attend xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, it is the only school which uses this book because the author is on staff. No other college in the country will touch it." Unfortunately my daughter's university did touch it (her lecturer is a former student of the professor referenced above).

Some things you can do - Rent the current edition or sell it back and get an earlier edition for pennies on the dollar). Since I work with my daughter on her college classes (she is a High School senior) having an earlier edition around is useful since I literally take the course with her (both of us doing the homework and then comparing answers and discussing). What professors should do is make the textbook optional by having the problems available (probably online or in a less expensive handout). Then recommend texts to support the problem sets and lectures (thus opening up the earlier editions of the texts).

You cannot effectively learn engineering from an online textbook (or math or science for that matter). Even with a tablet it is cumbersome. Also research is starting to come out about how the brain processes written matter differently than electronic screens (even Kindle paperwhite). Maybe I am a dinosaur but my daughter also prefers actual textbooks. I will usually gather at least one additional textbook for any technical subject for additional examples. Also I make use of Schaum's and other solution type manuals when available.

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