Push for Open Textbooks gains traction

Push for Open Textbooks gains traction

Rob Wall via Flickr

Rob Wall via Flickr

Textbook costs have long been a damaging hit to student wallets. Now, some people wish to change that.

The idea is open textbooks, which are textbooks open to the student body through the library. Under this program, students would be able to check out textbooks for a set amount of hours without having to outright purchase the book.

Mike Kenyanya, UMD Student Association’s Representative to the Board of Regents, has begun talks with the library to move forward with the idea.

Kenyanya hopes to lessen the burden of textbook costs on students.

“Textbooks are stupid expensive,” Kenyanya said.

The problem with instituting open textbooks on campus, according to Kenyanya, is funding, not the school.

“There’s no systematic barrier to doing this,” Kenyanya said. “This isn’t an issue where we need to convince the chancellor it’s a good idea. You have to convince independant teachers one at a time.”

Kenyanya points to the fact that it is the teachers that have the academic freedom to design their curriculum and assign readings. For many, Kenyanya said, the offer isn’t too appealing.

“Unfortunately, there is an assumed lower quality in open textbooks.”

However, Kenyanya remains optimistic for the program. Funding would have to come from grants or be built into a student’s tuition, a proposal he stressed is not as bad as it sounds.

“If you have a lecture hall of 100 students, in a class that is divided into multiple sections, those costs can be spread out.”

Kenyanya added that under this system, fewer textbooks would be needed as they could be shared through the library, also reducing costs.

The push for this, Kenyanya points out, would need to start now.

“The beginning of the fall semester would be too late,” Kenyanya said. “Teachers would need to get on board now.”

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