Free textbook developer could save students $750M over five years

Textbooks prices have risen faster than tuition.

OpenStax College, a publisher based at Rice University, announced last week that the nonprofit would more than double the number of free online textbooks over the next two years.

Perhaps as noteworthy as the group’s plans to double its available titles is the three-year goal of OpenStax officials: to offer no-cost online textbooks for 25 of the most popular college courses while capturing 10 percent of the textbook market and saving students upwards of $750 million over five years.

Those massive five-year savings depend on OpenStax carving out a considerable spot in the competitive textbook market, of course, but Rice professor and OpenStax College founder Richard Baraniuk said it is a realistic and worthwhile goal.…Read More

Open source textbook publisher projects $1M in savings

Educators at 55 colleges will use OpenStax books this fall.

College students in some of the most heavily attended courses in the country will eclipse $1 million in textbook savings after a Rice University-based publisher had 13,000 open-source books downloaded since June.

OpenStax College, a start-up online textbook publisher launched early this year, announced Aug. 14 that its first two book titles, College Physics and Introduction to Sociology, have sold more than 13,000 free copies – enough to save students $1 million during the upcoming fall semester.

Richard Baraniuk, OpenStax College’s founder and an engineering professor at Rice, said students would save more money this fall than it cost to create the sociology and physics textbooks, as educators at 55 colleges and universities have committed to using the textbooks this fall.…Read More

Free textbooks coming for five intro college courses

Many students say they go without textbooks, even when they're required.

College students in five of the most-attended courses in U.S. higher education soon will have free peer-reviewed textbooks available to them as a Rice University-based program looks to save students $90 million in book costs over the next five years.

OpenStax College, a textbook initiative funded by myriad nonprofits including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, announced Feb. 7 that books for introductory courses in physics and sociology would be freely available to students everywhere, not just on select campuses.

Unlike most open-platform texts—meaning the work is not copyrighted and available to reprint at no cost—the OpenStax College books are peer-reviewed, eliminating a stubborn impediment for professors and instructors who haven’t adopted open textbooks because they hadn’t been vetted like books from major publishing companies.…Read More

Campus researchers’ newest weapon in flood warnings: Google Maps

Tropical Storm Allison caused $5 billion in property damage in Houston and surrounding suburbs.
Tropical Storm Allison caused $5 billion in property damage in Houston and surrounding suburbs.

A customized Google Maps program could save lives and help prevent millions—even billions—of dollars in flood damage to the world’s largest medical center and its surrounding communities after Rice University researchers upgraded the school’s flood-tracking technology this summer.

Created in 1997, the university’s online Flood Alert System (FAS) has seen three iterations, with the latest involving software that can show the potential depth of flood waters in the detailed Google Maps format.

The newest system, known as FAS3, allows anyone—including Rice students working on the project—to track how much flooding will occur in the Houston area in the next 60-90 minutes, according to Rice’s Severe Storm Prediction, Education, and Evacuation from Disasters Center (SSPEED).…Read More

Study explores the future of book digitization

As more libraries move their collections online, some faculty are concerned about their ability to find and read digitized texts.
As more libraries move their collections online, some faculty are concerned about their ability to find and read digitized texts.

Reluctant faculty members, challenges in scanning old texts with foreign characters, and conflicting ideas about whether information should be commodified or made free on the internet have been barriers to educators and librarians who advocate for book digitization, according to research conducted by digital media experts from Rice University and the University of Michigan.

The report, “The Idea of Order: Transforming Research Collections for 21st Century Scholarship,” was released June 2 by the Washington, D.C.-based Council on Library and Information Resources, a nonprofit group that advocates for greater access to information. The research examines the “wistfulness” for the days of print libraries that has slowed the creation of digitized book collections, among other topics.

Many in higher education have argued for more comprehensive web-based libraries like Google’s much-publicized Book Search, which has come under scrutiny from the U.S. Justice Department.…Read More