Last year, I took an amazing social justice seminar. There were five textbooks for that class, and I don't think one of them was less than $20 on the Kindle Store. That adds up to over $100 for textbooks just for one class. I jumped for joy when I found that the library had purchased four of these books, and we could access them online. I was even more delighted to find that they were completely accessible to me as a totally blind student. They worked like a dream with my screen reader. Having access to books without having to rob a bank is crucial for a successful learning experience. I believe that authors should be compensated for their work, but I know most college students don't have $500 a semester to spend on books. This is why it's important to make books available online for students.
It has been invaluable to have an electronic copy of RA Harris' Using Sources Effectively. I purchased an earlier edition of this book only to find out that it was different from the 2017 edition. I was unable to complete the assignments for graduate council with my older addition. Now that the library has the e text version I am better able to keep up with the reading and the assignments.
At the end of the Fall, 2014 semester, I decided to get rid of the traditional textbook and use an OER with my general biology online students. The book titled, “Concepts of Biology” by Susan Fowler was the product of an OER initiative lead by Rice University known as Openstax College. The initial response from students was of disbelief because the book was free and it contained the same information as the more expensive textbook in the bookstore. It took some convincing from faculty who could not believe that this could be a quality textbook for our students but they eventually came over to the OER side. How much can I save my students using a free textbook? Well, for one each student saves about $200 per semester by using a free textbook, this is a savings of $63,000 over 6 semesters in one class with a homework solution. I support OER to help students, and this is from an actual OER user since 2014.
-Southern University Professor
As a faculty member I am increasingly concerned about keeping the costs of books reasonable for students struggling with very real problems like food, housing, and transportation insecurity. While two of the books I assign in my Race, Class, and Schools course, Shamus Kahn's Privilege and Angel Harris' Kids Don't Want to Fail, are relatively inexpensive when compared to textbooks in the sciences, the modest cost (~$40 total) is a real barrier to some students. I am deeply grateful that the library leadership at my institution has been proactive about expanding students access to e-texts. I know many of my students have made use of these resources. I am particularly grateful that it helps reduce the stigma that still surrounds having to admit to your professor that you cannot afford the books. It also allows me to continue to use what I think are gold-standard materials instead of adopting materials that are lower quality but cheaper.
The library providing the online version of the text I use in Digital Audio Production has changed the way I can teach the class. I know every student has access to the book, without regard for cost. The students always have access to the book during class, which has allowed me to do in class group discussions on particular parts of the text, and incorporate reading in much more open ways, because I never have to worry about whether I told them to bring their books on a given day. The removal of cost worry for the students, combined with the ubiquity of access, has made this program a real winner for my classes.
At first, I was skeptical about a free textbook for the class, but after reading a few chapters and comparing it to the text I used as an undergraduate for the same subject, I could see that it was similar in quality and had basically the same information, almost the same chapters exactly. I like the idea that students can keep the textbook (as a pdf) forever, and not just rent it, in case they like Sociology and want to refer back to the book later. I know I did. I want to do everything possible to help them learn, everything possible to help students with financial disadvantage afford to participate.