Why the Textbook Market is Dying, Part Googol
With textbook prices rising faster than inflation, more and more universities (and even state-wide university systems) are adopting free and open-source textbooks. And now the idea has taken hold in Canada.
Earlier this month the province of Manitoba announced its new Open Textbook Initiative, a program to provide freely licensed OER textbooks to college students.
OER (open educational resource) textbooks are licensed under CC and open copyright licenses and made available online for students, teachers and members of the public. Through this new initiative, faculty members at colleges and universities in Manitoba will be able to offer content in the highest-enrolled academic subject areas.
"Textbooks are one of the biggest costs faced by post-secondary students,” said Education and Advanced Learning Minister James Allum. "While we work hard to keep tuition fees among the lowest in Canada, this new initiative will save students money by giving them free online access to the reading material they need to achieve academically."
The initiative is delivered by Campus Manitoba, and currently uses works developed for the open textbook project that British Columbia started in 2013.
The textbooks can be found on the BCcampus website. Around 80 titles are available now, and the catalog is expected to expand by another 50 volumes this fall (to late for the fall semester, but still in time for next spring).
While this doesn’t mark the death of the college textbook market, it is one more nail in the coffin. This market is dying off, which leaves the lucrative K-12 textbook market. That market is focused on district- and state-wide purchases rather than student purchases, so it is more resistant to price pressures, but I still expect that market to follow the same path.
As districts realize that they can save huge sums by using OER textbooks they will switch over in droves. Funds are tight everywhere, and the idea that a district can save money on textbooks and use those funds to buy equipment will prove too tempting to ignore.
image by spakattacks