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Open-source, downloadable textbooks could relieve price strain

A+DePaul+student+conducts+a+transaction+at+DePaul%27s+Loop+Campus+bookstore.+Many+students+have+advocated+for+open+source+textbooks+due+to+pricing.+%0A
A DePaul student conducts a transaction at DePaul's Loop Campus bookstore. Many students have advocated for open source textbooks due to pricing.

A DePaul student conducts a transaction at DePaul's Loop Campus bookstore. Many students have advocated for open source textbooks due to pricing.

Jonathan Ballew | The DePaulia

Jonathan Ballew | The DePaulia

A DePaul student conducts a transaction at DePaul's Loop Campus bookstore. Many students have advocated for open source textbooks due to pricing.

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Students and professors at DePaul University may set a new policy — usurping expensive textbook-buying requirements with the option of downloading the material at a discount price.

Students and professors are now getting the survey via email. Their responses will determine whether the library will be able to grant PDF copies of textbooks that the survey respondents deem the most egregiously expensive.

The library could do so using Open Educational Resources (OERs) — books that have an open domain that lets people download, share and distribute legally.

“What we have noted so far is that this is truly a concern and a challenge for DePaul students as evidenced by the fact that we had over 100 responses in the first 10 minutes that the survey was open,” said DePaul librarian Terry Taylor.

Students at DePaul have been vocal about the high costs of textbooks and have taken advantage of the survey, voicing their concerns.

Sana Kadir, 19, is a public relations and advertising major. The average cost of her textbooks are around $250, forcing her to use outside resources to find cheaper options.

“The cost of textbooks is insane. Some textbooks, even if you rent them from Amazon, cost $100 and up. A lot of kids I know resort to asking their friends if they happen to have a copy or buy one off the DePaul Facebook page,” said Kadir, who is a freshman.

The survey was created to understand the impact the cost of textbooks have on students. Nationally, students struggle to pay for college as the price of tuition and other fees continues to go up.

Maham Mirza, 18, originally planned on going to DePaul, but decided to attend community college for two years before transferring in order to save money.

“At Oakton Community College, the only costs I have to cover currently are textbooks. If I attended DePaul right away, I’d be paying $45,000 just for tuition,” Mirza said. “When the cost of attending university is that high, I believe textbooks should be more available or partially covered under tuition,”

Taylor helped create the survey after reading statistics about trends in college pricing on collegeboard.org. At private institutions, the cost of tuition and fees increases by 12 to 13 percent every four years.

While OERs lower the cost of books drastically, not all students feel that they will benefit from them. Freshman Chloe Theus is an English major and many of the required readings for her classes are not from standard textbooks.

“As an English major, most of the material that I have to read are novels and short stories. These books aren’t pricey, but buying five novels per class can add up pretty quickly,” Theus said. “I usually try to borrow books from the library, but it doesn’t always work out and you’re not guaranteed a copy if 30 other kids want one as well.”

Amber Malik, a freshman and an Arabic and French major, agreed with Theus. Textbooks for her major aren’t always available for rent or on loan.

“Languages are definitely one of the underrepresented majors. Students who are language majors end up buying textbooks for full price because they don’t always have options. That being said, I buy very few textbooks compared to business majors who need one or two for every class,” said Malik, 18.

Taylor is aware of the lack of representation of subjects, but is unsure of how much the prices of textbooks will be lowered by OERs.

“That is ultimately a faculty decision and dependent upon whether the available resources meet the needs of their courses.  Open educational resources by definition are freely available, but not every subject is equally represented at present,” said Taylor.

The survey will be open until June 8. Students are encouraged by professors and librarians to voice their opinions.

“The survey is intended to gauge the impact of the textbook cost situation on our students.”

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Open-source, downloadable textbooks could relieve price strain