Open Source Textbooks Could Save Students a Bundle

March 16, 2017

Textbooks by Innocent Fraud with Flickr Creative Commons License.

As the cost of college has skyrocketed, students and parents could soon get relief on expensive textbooks under the Textbook Cost Savings Act of 2017 that would provide funding to develop free open source learning materials.

“The state is moving rapidly towards free textbooks online,” said the bill’s sponsor Sen. Jim Rosapepe, D-Prince George’s, in an interview. “If the bill passes it will be state policy that we want to move in that direction as much as possible.”

The bill, SB424, passed the Senate in an overwhelming 44-2 vote on Thursday, with only two Republicans voting against it. The House version, HB967, cleared the Appropriations Committee, 23-2 earlier on Thursday, and heads to the full chamber for a vote.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2015 that textbooks prices had jumped over 1000% since 1977.

The bill mandates the governor to include a $100,000 grant in the fiscal 2019 budget to the William E. Kirwan Center for Academic Innovation at the University of Maryland to fund the Maryland Open Source Textbook project (MOST). The project began as an initiative of the university’s student council in 2013 to engage faculty and students to develop free open-source learning materials, rather than the expensive and proprietary print products from academic publishers.

The Kirwan Center would be able to fund MOST’s expenses and award grants to develop the materials, including multimedia content.

By Daniel Menefee
Maryland Reporter

2 Responses to Open Source Textbooks Could Save Students a Bundle

  1. TheTruthHurts on March 16, 2017 at 4:11 pm

    Never gonna happen!

    Too much money to be made by authors, publishers, the colleges for which the texts are specifically made, etc.

    Why do you think they come out with different editions every other year AND make it MANDATORY to have the latest edition even when the changes within the texts are barely noticeable?

  2. MDCollegeProfessor on March 16, 2017 at 10:02 pm

    First, open resource books are a good idea. However, very few educators want to create them because they then lose a small yet welcomed stream of additional income.

    Second, many college students cannot afford their textbooks. For example, it is currently Week #8 of 16 and nearly 1/3 of my students don’t have their textbooks because of financial hardship. For some, it comes down to a choice between books and transportation, suitable shelter, or adequate food.

    Third, most textbook authors don’t get paid a lot – maybe $5,000 to $15,000 per edition of a text. Hence the reason for so many new editions without significant updates or additions and the same or almost identical content being sold by different publishing houses around the same time. A lot of work goes into putting the content together. That doesn’t always equate to money for the writers.

    Last, the publishers are the ones who reap a large chunk of the benefits as they sell thousands of copies of books to students in various formats. The price markups by college bookstores is what is truly hurting students, however. They add anywhere from 5 to 35% onto the list price of textbooks.