August 22, 2019 | 81° F

Rutgers libraries launch open source textbook program

Photo by Michael Makmur |

The Open and Affordable Textbook Program aims to lower the $1,500 Rutgers students spend on average every year on textbooks.

It's no secret that textbooks are expensive, but Rutgers Libraries are giving students' wallets a break with a new open source textbook program.

"Hopefully going forward we will have more students who will not have to make the difficult decision of deciding whether or not to purchase a book for their class because of the cost," said Lily Todorinova, undergraduate experience librarian and liaison to School of Communication and Information.

The Rutgers libraries are working closely with the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group to launch the Open and Affordable Textbook Project for all Rutgers campuses — New Brunswick, Camden and Newark, she said.

The Open and Affordable Textbook Project encourages professors to redesign their course material to exclude private published textbooks. Instead, they are asked to assign students an open-source textbook they can download or print cheaply that has to do with course material. 

Professors who choose to take part in the project by putting together sections of open source textbooks are key to the project's success, said Kaitlyn Vitez, campus organizer at NJPIRG.

"The Rutgers libraries have been working on the Open and Affordable Textbook Project since last semester and everything became finalized during the summer," she said. "Now we need to get more students aware of the program and encourage them to encourage their professors to apply to the program."

The program is an opportunity for the faculty to rethink course materials, Todorinova said.

The Office of Information and Technology are administering a $12,000 pilot grant program to allow professors to start assimilating open and affordable textbooks into their class curriculum. Each of the 12 faculties or department groups taking part in the program will be rewarded $1,000 for doing so.

“Over the course of one year of implementing a similar grant base project other (universities) have shown that their students have saved around $500,000 for textbooks,” Todorinova said.

To begin, professors must go online to the Rutgers libraries website and apply for the grant program. Applications will be opening for the program soon, Vitez said.

Applications are currently open for the two-hour open textbook network workshop next month in New Brunswick, with teleconferencing available for other locations. During the workshop, professors will have the opportunity to learn more about open textbooks and review an existing open source textbook, she said.

“Professors who attend will get $200 to sit down and look through an open source textbook," she said. "Anybody, regardless of if they attended the workshop, can apply for the grant program, and that will give them $1,000 for adapting an open source textbook in their classrooms.”

The event will be lead by the Open Textbook Network on Friday, Nov. 18, 2016 in the Alexander Library, Pane Room, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Professors are required to RSVP online due to limited seating. 

“The point of the grant is to raise awareness to give incentives to faculty for redesigning or rethinking which textbooks they use in their classes,” Todorinova said.

Seven out of 10 students report that they do not purchase required textbooks due to cost, and nearly 60 percent of students wait for financial aid to pay for textbooks, according to the Rutgers Libraries website. The cost of textbooks has risen by more than 800 percent over the last 30 years, with the average annual cost now exceeding well over $1,200 per student.

In comparison, inflation has risen 220 percent, the cost of housing has risen 214 percent, the price of unleaded gas has risen 206 percent, the price of electricity has risen 176 percent and the price of eggs has jumped 268 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

The greatest increase after textbooks is the cost of tuition, which has gone up 322 percent, according to The College Board.

On average, Rutgers students pay $1,500 per year on textbooks. This is 15 percent higher than the national average, which Todorinova said is closer to $1,300.

The NJPIRG, has been working toward cheaper textbook options for 12 years, Vitez said.

“But for the past two years we have been focusing on open source textbooks and surveying faculty, students, administration and librarians on what the best option would be and the consensus by large was that open source textbooks is the way to go,” she said.

Kayon Amos is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in human resources. She is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.

Kayon Amos

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