Charleston Conference – Open Textbooks Model & Library Involvement

Jeff Shelstad, Founder and CEO of FlatWorld Knowledge spoke first.

Jeff provided some stats on higher education:

  • 19.1 million students in 2010 in college
  • $850 avg spent on textbook
  • so, it’s about a 10billion industry
  • Cengage, Pearson, McGraw-Hill are the big 3 publishers along with many other small ones

Problem is that the industry has outworn their value proposition and is not willing to pay for the product the industry is offering.  Affordability is a huge problem.

36% of community college student in a study said that the cost of textbooks had caused them to leave/dropout

The emergence of open educational resources came about, but the source is usually foundation money.  Over 80 million in the last 10 years has been donated for this effort.  Curriki, Carnegie OLI, MIT open courseware, Merlot, Connexions are the popular OER sites.

Strengths of OER:

  • access is equal
  • community can evaluate and create resources openly
  • free
  • builds on the momentum of open source

Weaknesses of OER

  • is it sustainably
  • often not enough core material for curriculum development
  • course use/adoptability not scalable yet
  • limited author pool
  • can get knocked for low quality, variance in quality

Flat World is trying to become “Publisher 2.0.”

They only have 24 titles available now because they are very selective on content.

Not competing with the traditional online student sources like chegg, coursesmart, etc.

Flat World creates content exclusive to them.  They commission an author to write the text.  They release the content into an open license environment.  Then remove the barriers to the content by releasing it to the student for free.  Students then have a choice of 6 options to print/download of copy of the book (PDF, print, audio,EPUB, etc) .

Greg Raschke, Associate Director for Collections and Scholarly Communication from NC State (and Shelby Shanks)

Initial view from the library:  Couldn’t see a role for the library in textbooks, the library is a player with little power, it’s a teaching and curriculum side and not a library issue, etc.

Revised view from the library:  multiple players are concerned about the market, ripe for alternatives, libraries increase learning technologies and curriculum support role, we’re not central and can’t solve it, but we can help.

Things they’ve tried at NC State

  • Policy is to purchase one copy of every required textbook – about 4,000 titles with 14,000+ textbooks in circulations in 2008/9
  • % of titles circulating up each semester
  • direct linking from eReserve
  • partnership with bookstore
  • eBook collections from Springer, Morgan & Claypool and others cover a small number of required books
  • did some advocacy/outreach/expertise efforts on campus
  • authored a white paper by a GTA on open textbooks
  • became a resource for faculty seeking alternatives
  • licensed and hosted an introductory physics text
  • hosting faculty authored texts and chapters
  • print-on-demand with bookstore/espresso machine

Initial conclusions:

  • library as best supporting actor
  • textbooks OER should be part of educational resource strategy
  • quality/functionality are very important, students are generally divided so you need a hybrid solutions
  • market driven solutions hold most promise
    • could be commercial or academic market

Marilyn Billings, Scholarly Communications Librarian at UMass Amherst

Things Marilyn has done:

  • OER Events Week – offer a variety of events to education faculty and students
    • Brought in outside speakers from MIT and Flat World Knowledge
    • Got great marketing and outreach including interviews with a local newspapers and campus news
    • Scholarly Communication LibGuide