A new movement involving “open textbooks” has taken root at universities nationwide. Most notably here at the University of Minnesota, where a number of professors have adopted or are considering adopting the technology in lieu of making students pay for expensive textbooks.
While past efforts to incorporate free textbooks into classes have failed, the new effort has achieved relative success. This is largely due to David Ernst, graduate faculty and the chief information officer in the College of Education and Human Development at the University. He created the Open Textbook Library, which digitally houses 184 free textbooks, a few years ago.
Because some students still prefer having a paper copy of a textbook, that option is also covered. Students can obtain a printed version of some open textbooks for as little as $23.
Critics could argue that some authors may not be motivated to continually update textbooks without being able to maximize on royalties and that quality could suffer as a result. However, early results from the University’s current online library suggest this isn’t the case.
We support the implementation of this technology at the University, and we urge more professors to adopt this type of textbook into their curricula. Some classes that require original texts or specially tailored compilations make sense to require students to purchase printed text, but for the vast majority of introductory courses, the textbook used in class is negligible. A free version will only make it more likely that students will actually acquire and use it.