Publishing group offers students free textbooks
Program aims to help college students save money on materials.
The words “free” and “college” aren’t often used in the same sentence, but a philanthropic venture at Rice University is drawing attention for bringing them together.
OpenStax College, a nonprofit publishing organization founded by a Rice professor, offers free online textbooks for the five most-attended college courses in the country. They’re mostly introductory courses that students must take to move on to upper-level classes. In some classes, the required textbook can cost as much as $250.
With rising tuition and fees, some students struggle to cover the costs of textbooks and supplies, which also have increased.
Students will shell out an average of $1,200 on textbooks this school year, up about 3 percent from last year, according to the College Board, a nonprofit that tracks colleges costs.
“Textbooks are so expensive, especially for community college students,” said founder and electrical engineering professor Richard Baraniuk. “Some drop out because of the cost of learning materials. We decided to do something about it.”
OpenStax’s goal is to save 1 million college students $95 million over the next five years.
About 80 institutions have adopted the organization’s first two titles — College Physics and Introduction to Sociology — since they were published in June. More than 75,000 users have viewed them, and more than 40,000 have downloaded PDF versions. Print versions are also available for $30.
The publishing organization is based on Connexions, a Rice University-based open education resources platform that has more than 1 million users. The platform allows people to publish, modify or use teaching and learning materials that are freely available online.