Forced purchasing won’t promote textbook affordability, says OpenStax expert

OpenStax Textbook Covers

HOUSTON – (March 10, 2020) – Higher education faculty are increasingly accepting and even preferring digital learning materials, especially as concerns grow about the cost of traditional textbooks, according to a new study, "Inflection Point: Educational Resources in U.S. Higher Education, 2019."

Faculty are seeing students go without required texts, both because of high prices and because many students don’t believe they need them. The survey found that faculty, administrators and entire college systems have placed increased focus on lowering the cost of learning materials.

Daniel Williamson, managing director of Rice University-based nonprofit OpenStax, is available to comment on the trends and market shifts that are dramatically changing the way faculty discover and adopt textbooks. OpenStax provides free college and Advanced Placement textbooks and low-cost, personalized courseware developed and peer-reviewed by educators.

The report shows that use and awareness of open educational resources (OER) is growing every year, and faculty continue to rate their quality as equal to that of commercial alternatives. At the same time, new distribution models — particularly “inclusive access” programs — are rapidly changing the options available to faculty, but not necessarily for the better, Williamson said.

“Cost can shut out many students from pursuing higher education, so it’s promising to see that more faculty and administrators are taking up affordability as a key campus issue,” he said. “However, I’m concerned that the forced purchasing model will not promote long-term change.

“As the traditional publishers try to lock in customers and propose mergers to solidify market control, they are releasing new pricing models that are not sustainable. If these publishers succeed in drastically reducing competition, these bundled prices will start to climb — just like a cellphone bill or cable bill that rises once the customer is hooked.”

Williamson has spent over a decade managing OpenStax’s day-to-day operations,

speaking and writing about issues in higher education and working to promote OER at the policy level.

For more information or to schedule an interview, contact Williamson directly at 281-846-4244.


Related materials:

Follow OpenStax via Twitter @OpenStax.

Follow Rice News and Media Relations via Twitter @RiceUNews.