Free Digital Textbooks are Gaining Popularity

By Tommaso Mauro

OpenStax, a non-profit that provides openly licensed textbooks for free, held a summit at College of Southern Nevada to entice professors to choose free digital books to help students save money.

Book costs per semester can reach into the high hundreds. CSN students can save in classes with professors who have implemented Open Education Resources, making textbooks free.

On Wednesday, March 1, the summit was held on CSN’s Charleston Campus. This summit was led by Gracie McDonough, librarian at Henderson Campus and project lead of the OpenStax with CSN partnership program.

Partnering with colleges like CSN, OpenStax provides instructors with non-copywritten materials.

McDonough says, “The big thing for students is that – majority of the time – all of this is free. It is online for free; the textbooks are digital.”

According to CSN’s website about the OER summit, “To date, the program has resulted in over $20 million in additional student savings from OER. We are glad CSN was chosen for this partnership. This project ties in with the goal of our institution to help our students complete their courses by lowering barriers, such as the cost of textbooks,” says James McCoy, VPAA.

This rings true for many students at CSN.

CSN undergraduate Genevieve Noorigian states, “Last semester I spent a few hundred, but then I just decided to stop buying my books because I almost never used them.”

Karen Lizzette, CSN undergraduate, mirrored the same sentiment. “There have been so many times when I almost refused to purchase a textbook at CSN. This class, in particular, required a $263 textbook. It pained me deeply, but I purchased it because of the professor’s deep emphasis on the textbook requirement. In the end, we didn’t even use it!”

In the classes where OER are provided, students save money and stress.

According to CSN’s website on the summit page, the percentage of classes utilizing low-cost materials has increased by 13.4% since the 2019 spring semester. A spike happened in 2021 when accessibility increased as CSN started its partnership with OpenStax.

Data shows that students have been impacted by the OpenStax partnership whether they know it or not, and McDonough is excited to continue that reach.

She says, “I would love, love all of our gen-ed classes to be OER classes. There’s not really any reason for them not to be. The materials are fantastic and if there’s anything in there that the instructor doesn’t like, they can always supplement it for something else.”

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