OhioLINK member libraries advancing textbook affordability

Communications Specialist
Wednesday, February 1, 2017 - 3:22pm

Library-led affordable learning initiatives at institutions of higher education are gaining traction in Ohio and help the efforts of students and faculty alike. OhioLINK recently joined the University of Minnesota’s Open Textbook Network (OTN), a consortium of colleges and universities working to advance open textbook initiatives. The first nine OTN members reported an estimated $1.5 million in textbook savings by adopting open textbooks, allowing students of any financial means to access their course materials. OhioLINK joining as a consortium significantly increases the number of OTN members, bringing more visibility to these efforts.

According to the General Accountability Office (GAO), from 2002 to 2012 college tuition and fees rose 89 percent, and average new college textbook prices rose 82 percent. In 2013, the average cost of a new college textbook was $79, according to a survey by the National Association of College Stores. Multiply that number by four or five classes per semester, and students are looking at a hefty price tag. It’s no surprise the demand for open educational resources is rising.

We asked some of our member libraries to share what they have been doing to assist in the discovery and creation of easily accessible resources for classrooms that are low-to-no-cost to students.


“We’re in the midst of a print to e-textbook transition on our campus right now and, though it’s not entirely library-led, we’ve put a great deal of effort behind it. The final count for the semester starting in January is 17 eTextbooks through the VitalSource platform and about eight courses with library eBooks as free textbooks. For us, it’s primarily about access as we have mostly online students scattered across the globe.

“Our fantastic systems librarian, Kristi Lobrano, has worked with EBSCO to create a customized eBook search and add notes to our records to make it easier for course designers to select the right eBooks – owned and Multi-User Perpetual Ownership (MUPO) license. Designers now want to prioritize library resources, to have additional training slated for our course designers, instructional design faculty, and lead faculty so they can better identify library resources that work for their courses.”

Alyssa Darden

Library Director

Franklin University


“At Otterbein, Tiffany (Lipstreu, Library Director) initiated a task force last August, Project Textbook, that brought together constituencies from across campus. This group includes representatives from Academic Affairs, the Center for Community Engagement, Dean of Student Affairs, the Office of Diversity Director, Student Government, and the Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning. 

  • We've met with our Faculty Scholars Development Committee members and they are interested in OER [Open Education Resources] and possibly overseeing any funds to support textbook adoption or writing.
  • We've offered a workshop on OER as part of the programming for the Center for Teaching and Learning. We are starting to introduce OER to our faculty, which is a process. 
  • Our Digital Commons is also being considered as a place to house resources.
  • Surveying our students is well under way. At the Promise House, Otterbein's food pantry, they have been collecting qualitative data from students on the cost of textbooks. We also have an ongoing email survey to our student population and have received nearly 500 responses. All this data will assist as we reach out to faculty about OER resources. The survey is also a measurement of how much students know about course reserves and OhioLINK.
  • While not online OER, we are looking in the short term at offering more materials on course reserve and ramping up our promotion of this service to faculty.
  • Investigating book co-op (such as Oberlin's) or offering an online site for book swapping.”

Allen Reichert

Electronic Access Librarian

Otterbein University


“We offered five small grants to faculty last spring to adopt/adapt/write open textbooks, and I got five applications. Four of those are adopting/adapting/writing textbooks and progress is under way on all of them. The fifth is a little different, but I am hoping that it will result in an open law case book in the future. I also have supported writing reviews for OTN. I have been working to introduce CSU faculty to open textbooks and other OERs for a couple years now. It is slow going, but it is picking up. Our support of the faculty on these four grants is about all we could handle, but we are learning a lot too. We will offer them again this spring.

“We are also putting some content in Digital Commons’ Teaching Commons.

“We are looking at a discovery type product called SPIX that could help faculty make greater use of library purchased/licensed content for course content. I would be interested in learning if anyone else is considering it.

“We also have identified, with our bookstore’s help, about 30 ebooks that we subscribed to (probably mostly through OhioLINK) that matched assigned textbooks.  We notified faculty and put links in our ECR system.  To date, students have accessed those 30 books more than 1,100 [times] this fall.”

Glenda Thornton, Ph.D.

Director, Michael Schwartz Library

Cleveland State University


“At Columbus State, we are engaged in multiple approaches to the digital initiative movement through our Digital Pathways, where faculty members are creating e-courses in a number of areas of study. We have also been awarded a “Straight A” grant, where 10 faculty members are creating e-courses and iBooks (five in Arts and Sciences, five in Career and Technical) that will be used to support our College Credit Plus students in several designated high schools.

Also, there is an iPad Pilot in its second semester phase where courses in HIMT and biology are being offered to students who are using apps on iPads provided by the college as replacements for their textbooks. The impact on student success is being studied through this pilot. Our library is leading the OER/Copyright team in support of these initiatives, while librarians are working with faculty to support these initiatives in the following areas:

1.    Leading OER workshops.

2.    Maintaining, revising and communicating the OER website.

3.    Responding to questions regarding OER sites.

4.    Responding to copyright questions, or escalating questions to Legal Office, as necessary.

5.    Researching OER requested by faculty and offer validation or alternatives as necessary.

6.    Responding to faculty questions on use of library database content.”

Bruce Massis

Director of Libraries

Accreditation Liaison Officer (ALO)

OAA Communication Director

Columbus State


“Currently, the University of Akron utilizes two open text providers:


One of the largest barriers we have been encountering is the cost of the textbook in direct relation to the likelihood of students actually purchasing it in time for the first day of class. Many students wait until two or three weeks into the course to purchase the book, at which point the book may be sold out in the bookstore. Our redesigned microeconomics course has been completed by 166 students to date, and assuming that all 166 students would have had to purchase a $99 to $265 text, the savings range from $15,000 to $44,000. There are two sections offered for spring of 2017. Upon surveying the students, we have received a great deal of positive feedback regarding the open textbook. While the open text may not be as robust as a text from a major publisher, those shortcomings can be supplemented from a variety of other sources, including content created by the instructor.


Boundless is an open text provider that allows for free browsing of texts on its website, but for a $29.99 fee per student, an LMS integration can be created that allows students to complete comprehension quizzes and track their reading on their website. These activities can be graded and scores can flow back into the LMS gradebook. Our Exploring Biology course has adopted the open text, which allows faculty members to customize which chapters are utilized. The previous hardcopy text was $149, with the digital version being $62.99, and accessible for only 180 days. Boundless allows students lifetime access to the online text as a part of their fee. This course will be offered for the first time in this format during the spring of 2017.”

Steve Kaufman

Senior Instructional Designer

Quality Matters Coordinator / CRM

Quality Matters Consortium State Lead

Design & Development Services

The University of Akron


NOTE: The University of Akron is offering a NEXT conference on Friday, Feb. 24, focusing on “Exploring What It Means to Open the Boundaries of Education and Research.”

In a related story, Ohio University recently made news for its library’s Alt-Textbook initiative, providing monetary incentives for faculty who opted to use open access resources instead of asking students to purchase textbooks. They have also offered various events around open access materials for both faculty and students. For more information on digital initiatives and open access materials, visit the Open Access Week website.