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Scholarly Communications: Open Access Textbooks

A guide to issues in scholarly communications, including publishing, open access, copyright, author rights, and digital archiving

Questions to Consider When Choosing A Textbook

The cost of college textbooks continues to increase and the economic burden is of great concern to students. The College Board estimates that the average student in this country spends around $1,200 a year on books and supplies. A single book can cost as much as $200. Between 2002 and 2013, the price of college textbooks rose 82% — nearly three times the rate of inflation, according to a recent study by the Government Accountability Office.

What can faculty do about the high cost of textbooks?  Here are some questions and suggestions to consider:

  • Quit assigning over-priced textbooks, especially those that are frequently and needlessly updated.  Can you use a previous edition?
  • Incorporate as classroom texts e-books and online journals that are already available at no cost to students via the campus library.
  • Publish open-access scholarly articles that can be freely used as course texts.
  • Fully exercise the right of fair use to make as much course material as possible digitally available to students via course-management or library systems.
  • Make use of the growing corpus of open-access, peer-reviewed course materials available through repositories, such as those listed below.
  • Encourage colleagues to invest time, intellect, and effort into writing, editing, and peer reviewing open-access textbooks rather than writing textbooks on behalf of for-profit publishers. *

*Acknowledgements to Donald A. Barclay for the above questions and suggestions.

Barclay, Donald A. "No Reservations: Why the Time Has Come to Kill Print Textbook Reserves." College and Research Libraries News 76, no. 6 (June 2015): 332-35.


Open Access Repositories

Suggested Readings -- OER

Keeping Up With...Affordable Course Content -- Association of College and Research Libraries

Empirical research on the impacts of OER Adoption - Open Ed Group “Review” webpage


OER Outreach for Newbies - ACRLog  (Sarah Crissinger, Davidson College)

5 Things You Should Read About OER

Babson/Pearson Report (2014) Opening the Curriculum: Open Educational Resources in U.S. Higher Education This report is the source of data regarding why faculty aren’t using OER. Top reasons include: Lack of awareness, difficulty locating OER etc.

The following two reports present findings regarding the impact of textbook costs on student purchasing behavior and its impacts.

Student PIRGs (2014) “Fixing the Broken Textbook Market: How Students Respond to High Textbook Costs and Demand Alternatives; 2012 Florida Student Textbook Survey

For institution-level specifics, the following training and resource materials are highly recommended.

See also:
Open Education Campus Action Plan (SPARC)

Becoming Open Ed Leaders (1 hour recorded webinar)
Keynote addresses from the 2015 Open Textbook Summit

ASERL Webinar: Your Invitation to Join the Lib-OER Community: Lessons from the Field (1.5 hour recorded webinar)


OER Commons - Virginia OER Project

OER in Higher Ed: 'Huge Awareness-Raising Effort Needed'