On Jan 22, 2014, at 5:11 AM, Dominic Orr <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> A frequent argument for OER textbooks is the huge cost savings for students in higher education. Evidence is often given for the huge costs to students of buying textbooks. Allen (2010) quotes the average of 900 US$ per year for US students. That would be around 664 Euros and appears very high to me – I am wondering if the use of textbooks and other such materials differs a lot between countries and types of higher education institution.
The United States are somewhat unique in this respect: for most courses, textbooks are mandatory. This frequently leads to misunderstandings when we are discussing OERs across the Atlantic. Having experienced both scenarios (studied in Europe, teaching in the States), I can attest to the far-reaching extent of this cultural difference. In my courses (physics), I never use a particular textbook, but instead put together free online notes, book recommendations, and even a free open printed course pack - student course evaluations frequently asked for a “real textbook” instead. It’s what’s expected.
Having said that, the current situation is unsustainable, see for example
The Huffington Post is not always the most reliable source of news, but the statistics from the US Census Bureau are real. Part of the reason for these incredible costs are the used book market, as well as all the ancillary “free” materials that publishers have to provide in order to distinguish their product from the competitors. Problem awareness is rising, even (actually, particularly) among publishers.
I believe the currently proclaimed “solution” of electronic textbooks is a transitionary technology, essentially digitizing the dinosaur. Something will happen within the next five years. But in order to succeed on the US market, the OER movement will need to grow up a bit and move beyond some of its hippie mentality. In the world of grownups, things are not always black and white; the movement will need to compromise some of its pure ideology and productively coexist with each others in order to move forward - and the whole effort will also need to be sustained.