Books cost money too. . .

Text books cost too much money. Everyone but book reps and some professors say so.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics charts the costs of textbooks through its Consumer Price Index. In the last ten years, the indexed cost of books has gone up around 260 points.  Imagine if a cup of coffee cost $3.40 in 2004 and now cost $6.00 in 2014. Outrageous, I know, everyone knows it.

Graph of text book increase index

Ten year price increase index of textbooks.

I’ve tried experimenting with low-cost textbooks, but often the best material in the form of juicy primary sources, gets dumped into a poorly edited primary source document and textbook becomes an edited version of wikipedia, plus a theme (exploration, panorama, connections!).

There exists an increasing number of quality primary and secondary sources online. Consider:

Perseus Digital Library.   The Hathi Trust Digital Library  or the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database.

To say nothing of the rich secondary material available for free to my students in our college library’s databases (JSTOR, Project Muse). I have 40 websites with primary or secondary sources, almost all of which are better than any textbook I’ve found. Did you know Getty Images recently made their images free to use with attribution? And I haven’t even started looking seriously yet.

Someday soon there will be useful open education resource (OER) world history textbooks.

For now, I want to see if I can teach without a rope. So my world history 2 course will use only resources that free to students at Normandale. Some texts, images, or video will be public, some will be behind our library firewall, but the students won’t have to purchase a textbook, primary source reader, monograph, or historical novel.

To be fair, my fall course is online, so this can work easier for them. And of course, many students will still print readings. Still, I’ve taken the cost to take my class down by around $100. Let’s do some math. Let’s posit the average cost of texts for a course is $150 and the average class is 45 students. If 20% of the 250 courses offered at Normandale in the Fall of 2014 had no textbook costs (around 62 course), what’s the total savings? 62 courses x 45 students x $150 textbook costs =  $418,500.

Part three and four of my project soon.

Safe home.



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