Thoughts on the ocean, the environment, the universe and everything from nearly a mile high.

Panorama of The Grand Tetons From the top of Table Mountain, Wyoming © Alan Holyoak, 2011

Friday, February 10, 2012

More on textbooks

As some of you know, I teach at a university. Anyway, about 5 years ago now I was assigned to head up a committee that developed a new science course for a new general education program where I teach. As part of that process we soon discovered that there was no commercially available textbook that could accomplish what we needed a book to do for our course. So, what do you do? The team members all went to work and developed a set of readings that eventually evolved into a textbook for the course.

As we did this we decided that we wanted to provide this textbook to our students as an e-book free of charge. That was a small thing that we wanted to do to try to keep the cost of education under least a bit.

This course (FDCSI 101 - Science Foundations) is a required course for all students who enroll at our school.  This means that we have between 1500-2000 students in the course each semester and we have three semesters a year. The course was offered for the first time in Fall 2008. This means that the course is now in its 8th semester of being taught.

A little while ago I was curious to see just how much we had saved our students, collectively, since the course was first offered. First of all I had to assign a value to the text. Well, if you are at all familiar with science textbooks you know that they can be extremely PRICEY (I've seen hard cover books sell for close to $200/copy new)! So, since we offered our book only electronically I arbitrarily assigned a low value of $40/copy to the book, and then multiplied that price by the total number of students that have taken the class so far.

Even at that low-ball, bargain basement price/book, guess how much we have saved the student body as a group so far? I couldn't believe it when I hit the enter button on my calculator and saw that we had saved them over $500,000! Yep, over half a million dollars! Man, that made me feel good!

This also let me know how overpriced the textbook game really is! It is out of control! And this explains why textbook publishers are so keen to knock on my door when they are on campus, and why they keep trying to find ways to fenagle a way to sell something to the students in this class!
The book is now in its 3rd or 4th Edition, and it gets better every time we take another look at it! Woot!

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