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Open Textbooks

October 24-30 is Open Access Week

College textbooks are incredibly expensive, costing US students an average of $1,298 a year!* In fact, textbook prices increased 82% between 2003 and 2013, approximately triple the rate of inflation in overall consumer prices (CPI) during the same time (27%).**

What happens when textbooks cost this much? Students take out more loans, they take fewer courses, or they simply don’t buy the textbook. In a national study, 65% of students report not purchasing a textbook because of its high price.***

For a growing number of instructors and students, open textbooks have great appeal because they are digital, openly-licensed works made available for free online. With quality always a concern, the UT Libraries investigated a number of open textbook organizations and found the Open Textbook Library, a project of the Open Textbook Network (OTN). The Open Textbook Library identifies reputable publishers, presents peer-reviews of open textbooks, and lists available titles, complete with the book and any supplemental materials, on their site. Additionally, data gathered by the OTN demonstrate that nine early OTN members reported a $1.5 million savings in textbook costs to students, with most of the savings realized in the past year.

The Open Textbook Library identifies reputable publishers, presents peer-reviews of open textbooks, and lists available titles, complete with the book and supplemental materials.

At least one UT course is already utilizing an open textbook. Students in Physics 221 and 222 are assigned College Physics, an OpenStax textbook by Dr. Paul Peter Urone from Cal State and Dr. Roger Hinricks of SUNY Oswego. New copies of other college-level introductory Physics textbooks range from $150 to $350.

UT recently joined the Open Textbook Network (OTN) to contribute to the development and use of open textbooks. Other members include The Ohio State University, Purdue University, the University of Washington, and Virginia Tech.

In April, representatives of the OTN will be on campus to lead a workshop on open textbooks. If you would like to receive more information about this workshop as plans develop, please contact Rachel Caldwell, scholarly communication and publishing librarian.

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* According to The College Board.
** Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
*** See Fixing the Broken Textbook Market.

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For more information:

Contact Rachel Caldwell, scholarly communication and publishing librarian (rachelcaldwell@nullutk.edu or 865-974-6107).

See our guide on Open Textbooks.

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