Editorial: Groups make Strides with open source textbooks

The UConn Bookstore held a press conference regarding the open source books. They are now taking on their first major initiative with chemistry professor Dr. Edward Neth. (Tyler Benton/The Daily Campus)

With college being as expensive as it is, the high price of textbooks has always been a problem for students. Books can increase the cost of college by thousands of dollars, which can be troublesome for those already struggling to make ends meet. However, groups on campus are making efforts to alleviate this problem and make affordable textbooks a reality. The UConn bookstore recently donated $30,000 towards addressing this concern. In addition, the Undergraduate Student Government has been working along with UConnPIRG to provide open source textbooks for the student body.

The first major initiative was undertaken with chemistry professor Dr. Edward Neth, who teaches CHEM 1124, 1125 and 1126. Working with a $20,000 donation from the student government, Neth edited an existing open access textbook and adapted it for his classes. Other chemistry professors have begun using open source textbooks as well, and this has already saved students thousands of dollars.   

The university has put a focus on moving towards implementing open-source textbooks in classes with the highest levels of enrollment. This focuses primarily on freshman year courses, including general physics, chemistry, psychology and others. In most of these courses the major textbooks do not vary much, and professors indicated that they did not have to alter their course in any meaningful way.

While many positive steps have been taken in reducing the cost of textbooks, there is still a lot of work to do. One important task is making sure professors are aware of how expensive their textbooks are, and don’t forget that students are taking 3-5 other courses. If professors make an attempt to teach with cheaper books, or even use alternative sources such as online readings, it can alleviate some of the financial burden for students. This is especially important for higher-level classes, where it is not as easy to use open-source textbooks.

In addition, the university must continue working with leaders on campus and around the state to push affordable textbooks. UConnPIRG invited Sen. Richard Blumenthal to a panel on the issue earlier in the spring and also worked with Mansfield Rep. Greg Haddad to draft legislation to create an open educational resource taskforce at the state level. If student groups continue working to drop the price of textbooks they can make a real difference for thousands of student on campus and hopefully set an example that other colleges will follow.