The options for obtaining textbooks have exploded. The landscape is being changed by students and faculty seeking ways not to break the bank on textbook purchases. Granite State College is following trends and working with our current online bookstore, MBSDirect, on ways to help students and faculty maximize quality and lower costs to students. Here’s a brief overview of some of the most interesting trends:
Of course, there has always been a market for used textbooks. Today, however, there is a much broader market ranging from textbook buy/sell websites to textbook rentals. Check out this article comparing ten of the best known exchange and rental services, http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/sites-college-textbooks-cheap-rent-buy
With eReaders like the Kindle and the Nook as well as eReader apps for smart phones and tablet computers, there is a huge opportunity to mine centuries of works currently in the public domain. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple, through iBooks, all offer works in the public domain free for download. Of course, these vendors are proprietary which means you need to have their specific device in order to download the files.
An excellent alternative is Project Gutenburg (http://www.gutenberg.org) which offers thousands of public domain titles in a wide array of file formats to accommodate various eReaders, including the Kindle and the Nook. Gutenburg titles can also be read without an eReader, as you would read any document on the web.
In terms of apps for your smart phone or tablet device, a good open source app is Stanza which is available as a free download in both iTunes and the Android Marketplace. Stanza will allow you to search and download titles from Project Gutenburg as well as various other open source and public domain internet archives. The eReader apps bring the added advantage of desktop editions complete with syncing capabilities between your devices and your desktop!
While these developments are certainly exciting, one of the most exciting developments in the world of textbooks is the open source approach to textbook content. The main driver in this area is the Open Education Resources (OER) movement. OER is being driven by joint efforts between Creative Commons and the US Department of Education.
OER projects have been developed to provide free access to knowledge and information. The projects range from Flat World Knowledge (http://www.flatworldknowledge.com) which is an online publisher of free, peer-reviewed textbooks appropriate for collegiate level education. Another interesting project which has been in the news recently is the math tutorial website, Khan Academy (http://www.khanacademy.org)
Check out these links to learn more and delve into the alternatives to traditional textbook publishing:
Open Educational Resources logo image rendered from Wikimedia Commons: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:OERlogo.svg