Free Electronic Textbooks Being Made Available

By Staff
September 28, 2009

A new initiative aimed at lowering the cost of textbooks for college students is providing digital versions free of charge or hard copies at significantly reduced prices.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the University Press of Florida has created a project called Orange Grove Texts Plus, which provides 124 books that students can read free online. Additionally, hard copies of the books are being available at a fraction of the typical cost. The project is being run in partnership with the Virginia publisher Integrated Book Technology; and Orange Grove, the state's digital database of teaching material.

"The concept of this is more important here than the number of volumes we have right now," noted Frank Brogan, chancellor of the state university system of Florida in the St. Petersburg Times. "Over time we can get more and more authors and more and more publishers--and then that gives students a better menu to choose from."

Meredith Babb, director of the University Press, noted that the success of the initiative will depend on professors' willingness to allow their work to be in free digital format and to use online books for their courses. College instructors have in the past received financial incentives from commercial textbook publishers for agreeing to require their books.

"We're not under any illusion that all the professors in Florida are going to grab an Orange Grove textbook," Babb conceded. "But what we eventually hope to do is populate the Orange Grove with competitive, commercially available textbooks."

In a related story, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on a project announced recently by bookstore associations in the United States and Canada, which provides a library of downloadable e-books to participating stores. The groups--the National Association of College Stores and the Canadian Campus Retail Associates Inc.--have created a shared system allowing students to buy and rapidly download digital textbooks from college bookstore Web sites.

The e-book collection is currently only about 200 titles, but according to Mark Nelson, vice president for strategy and development for the National Association of College Stores, the selections are used in many course syllabi. As with the Orange Grove, this first set of books is being offered for free.

"Our goal is to provide college stores in North America with access to a best of class e-book delivery platform that is scalable to store volumes, can integrate with other store systems, and is wholly owned by college stores," explained Ed Schlichenmayer, president and chief operation officer of NACS Media Solutions LLC, in a press release.

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