College textbook alternatives being considered to reduce student spending

College textbook alternatives being considered to reduce student spending

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - After tuition, student fees, and housing cost, a trip to the bookstore can be overwhelming for college students. Books can easily cost upwards of $500 a semester, but LOUIS -The Louisiana Library Network - is hoping to cut that cost for students.

The team is currently working on a plan that would allow students to use online books at the library instead of the traditional hardback textbooks.
At Textbook Rentals on Common Street in Lake Charles, KPLC gathered books required for 15 credits hours at McNeese State University. The five freshmen level courses totaled $594.18 in books.

"To me there's no way it should cost $100-200 per book to make the book, which to me is crazy, but that's what the publishers are charging," said store owner Rusty Montiville, "This is the only industry I've ever seen where it doesn't matter if you buy one of them or 10 of them - it's the same price."

Of course, renting the book cuts that cost almost in half - down to $325.49 for our purchase - but some are considering e-books might be the next best thing. Montiville said the research shows otherwise.

"I don't see where there's a lot of difference between an e-book, and a regular hardback book as far as the cost," he said, "The publisher already has built in what they want to make as far as profit-wise, so I think they are going to do that no matter what."

Montiville also brought up the point that many students will not learn as much from an online book compared to the hard copy. He said it's almost too easy to search for a specific subject or answer a question with an e-book. Montiville says students would learn more and retain that information if they actually read the book.

Teri Gallaway of Affordable Learning LOUISiana said her team is hoping to get away from the traditional license altogether and go with an open resource.

"We try and identify things available for unlimited simultaneous use," Gallaway explains, "meaning that the library buys the e-book one time and everybody in the course can use it, can print it, and they don't have to purchase an individual copy."

This is what the Louisiana Library Network calls Open Educational Resources, saying it's perfect for classes with textbooks that don't necessarily change year-to-year like basic math, English, and science.

Right now, professors choose their class's books.

"Most of these books - the professor actually writes it; they just get the publisher to publish it for them," said Montiville, "We are still going to have the same thing. The professor is making royalties off the book so they are going to want to charge something for that. The publisher is publishing the book, they are going to make something off this."

Gallaway said that's a good question, but in the system being considered even with open textbooks, authors are compensated.

"There's a funder that comes in that compensates an author on the front end with the understanding that once the book goes through peer review and is released, that it will be open," said Gallaway.

The return on investment in pilot programs so far? About $20,000 of e-book investments have cut student spending by over $460,000.

While it's a scary thought for some bookstore owners, it's an alternative worth exploring.

The Library Network said even in the open model, it will certainly not eliminate the need for hard copy textbooks. The group is also working out who would pay for the e-books - the state or individual schools.

For more on these efforts, visit the LOUIS website, and find the plan for other changes to higher education in the Board of Regents plan.

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