Saturday, April 26, 2014

Open Access Textbooks

I am a college student. I am also broke. The two descriptors seem to be synonymous.

Besides tuition and room and board costs, one of my biggest expenditures in college so far has been textbooks. This semester I spent around $250 on textbooks alone; below is an image of most of the books I was required to purchase for this semester. So when I stumbled upon a CNN article about open access textbooks (also called open-source textbooks), I was intrigued. (You can read this article by clicking here.)

Image created and uploaded by me, Anna Kron

Open access textbooks are free digital textbooks that can be viewed through the Internet. They are also often licensed to allow professors to legally access and reformat copies of the book to fit the needs of their particular classes.

Many advantages to open access textbooks came to mind as I read this article. First and foremost, open access textbooks are free, allowing anyone to read and interact with them. Another advantage is their convenience. By using an open access textbook, not only do you avoid carrying around a heavy book, you can also read it anywhere on the go: in between classes, on the bus, or even in line at the grocery store. Also, open access textbooks can be easily edited by professors to include the most up-to-date information and correct mistakes, whereas new editions of printed textbooks must be created each year to remedy these problems. With open access textbooks, clarification and more information are readily available; you can't look up words within a printed textbook simply by highlighting them with your finger as you can with some open access textbooks. Lastly, open access textbooks provide for professional collaboration: professors from around the globe can see what other professors within their field are utilizing for their classes, and they can build upon each other to provide the students with the best information possible.

I personally cannot see the disadvantage of open access textbooks. I think they level the playing field a bit for students, whether they are in college or even earlier grade levels. The Internet is already a vast source of information; the problem is that not all of the information is correct, the sheer amount of it may be overwhelming, and it is littered with sites that are inappropriate for young eyes. An online textbook gathers all of the information in one place and has been looked over by professors to make sure the information needed for the class is within the book and accurate. If the Internet is already a free source, why not make it easier for students to access what they need?

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