“If we’re going to sell textbook affordability, we need to come up with a solution that will accommodate a lot of people,” she said. “We can’t depend on one silver bullet.”

Mitchell from VCU said the couple dollars the university makes from each print version of an open textbook sold to students wouldn’t be enough to sustain publishers, authors, and marketing agencies in the book industry.

“Offering an open-source format will certainly bite into that revenue,” he said. “It’s possible to generate income with the open-source model, but we certainly don’t generate anywhere near what we would need to make a salary.”

The Student PIRG survey revealed that fewer than half of respondents would be comfortable using even one digital textbook each semester.

The survey illustrates a lingering hesitancy to embrace digital textbooks on college campuses. Three out of four students surveyed by the National Association of College Stores last year said they prefer print to digital textbooks and that 19 percent of students “were unsure about purchasing digital textbooks or would not consider buying them even if they were available.”

BookRenter released a survey in August in which students ranked textbooks among their leading wastes of money and the “biggest scam” in higher education, as the cost of textbooks is rising at four times the rate of inflation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


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