UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN River Falls
Welcome to the Textbook Services Manager's blog! This space will be used for updates about Textbook Services at UW-River Falls in addition to the changing landscape of textbooks on a larger scale.
July 18th, 2019
As many of you may have seen recently, McGraw-Hill and Cengage announced they were combining to form one company which will be known as McGraw-Hill (https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/article/2019/05/02/cengage-and-mcgraw-hill-merge.) What does that mean for Textbook Services at UWRF? The honest answer at this point is, I do not know. We have yet to be contacted by anybody from either company to offer any information about the merger or how it will affect our future purchases or access to content. However, if you step-back and look at how much the textbook and instructional content landscape has changed in the last ten years and look at the direction those changes are pushing the industry, my hunch is that this merger will negatively impact our textbook program at UW-River Falls.
To explain why I believe this will be a net-negative, let us examine the current direction of textbooks. As many of you who have been contacted by publisher representatives can attest to, what is being pushed by all publishers is a concept called Inclusive Access (IA). It is sold as a student money saving opportunity by publishers and in a small way, it could be. However, for UW-River Fall Inclusive Access does not save students money and can harm the overall textbook program. Inclusive Access is where starting from day one, students have access to their textbook and other course content electronically through their Digital Learning Environment (Canvas in our case). Students simply log into the class and there will be a module that will take them out to their textbook and homework platform directly. Textbook Services is then billed directly per student enrolled in the class. Instead of paying full-price for the textbook, we pay a lesser cost for access to the e-book and content. A book that was previously for sale for $200.00 may now only cost $85.00 to access. Publishers will argue that this program is saving students $115.00 on their course materials for that class. With schools that have textbook programs like ours, where students pay a Textbook fee each semester, Inclusive Access can break our budget very quickly. Our current Textbook fee is $83.89/student/semester. With programs like Inclusive Access, instead of purchasing the physical book once and then re-using for multiple semesters, we must pay for student access each semester. We have offset some of these costs by special course fees, however the deadline for special course fees comes early each semester and by adding special course fees to classes for content, it goes against the spirit of the Textbook fee. We are proud that our Textbook fee is the 3rd lowest in the UW-System and that we provide more content with our fee that all the other UW-System rental schools. With the merger of McGraw and Cengage, I believe that push and move to IA models will become more aggressive. We are already seeing fewer print texts available to purchase. Pearson just announced that it will accelerate its push to digital-first publishing. Pearson will only print about 100 of its 1,500 university-level books next year, compared to 500 this year (https://www.ft.com/content/c1940696-a74d-11e9-984c-fac8325aaa04.) Pearson is not alone in this trend. With the proposed McGraw-Hill/Cengage merger both of those publishers were already pushing heavily into digital and making less of their new texts available in print.
This year UW-River Falls joined the Open Textbook Network out of the University of Minnesota to promote the use of Open Educational Materials for classroom instruction. Open Educational Resources are materials that can be used for classroom instruction that are free or low-cost and licensed in a way that they are able to be remixed, reused, retained, redistributed, and revised by the instructor using the material. There will be more information coming about what that means for campus closer to the start of classes. The big take away right now for textbooks and instructional content is that the old model of the traditional print textbook is rapidly being pushed aside in the race to go digital. Keeping our textbook fee low and maintaining instructional content access for our students is our priority in Textbook Services. I am very interested in engaging with faculty and instructors in how this will affect instruction and the use of instructional content. Please feel free to reach out with any questions or ideas you may have this year on the effects of this transition on teaching and our textbook program.
I have linked to a couple of different articles to read if you are interested. One is a paper that Amanda Moeller, who is our Systems and Electronic Resource Librarian, and I co-wrote about our textbook program and ways that we can keep our textbook fee low.
Textbook Services Manager
October 25th, 2016 - 15 minutes of your time
For those that are interested in the textbook market and why the price of textbooks are rising at rate that has never been seen, take a listen to this 15 minute podcast by Planet Money on NPR.
It gives a good concise background on the economics of the textbook market and the problems it faces. To me the most interesting part was the last couple of minutes during the interview with the president of McGraw Hill. The belief of McGraw Hill is that digital is the future. In 2014 at Educause Brian Kibby the president of McGraw was quoted as saying "Textbooks are dead. They are dinosaurs." While you may or may not agree with that statement, you can see where the major publishers will be putting all their development effort in the coming years.
May 1st, 2016 - Welcome!
I little bit of background about me. My name is Cory Whipkey and I started working at UWRF in June of 2015. Previous to working here I worked for eight years at College Library at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. While at UW-Madison my main duties involved supervising the Collection Management department and handling course reserves for College Library. I have been working with instructors on instructional materials for over 8 years. This includes both print and electronic course reserves. I am very interested in instructional materials and how they are used in classes. We are in a time when we have access to more content than ever before, whether is free material on the web, content that is licensed by the library, Open Education Resources (OER) and traditional textbooks. This is great but it can also be very overwhelming. I hope to be able to help instructors in any way I can navigate this area.
Textbook Affordability Conference
On April 27th - 29th I had the opportunity to attend the Textbook Affordability Conference at the University of California - Davis. What stood about this conference were all the different stakeholders that participated. In attendance were faculty, librarians, publishers, bookstore managers and administrators. The skyrocketing costs of textbooks is not news but its impact on student achievement and degree completion is. According to a 2014 report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group that surveyed over 2000 students, 65% have skipped purchasing a required book for a class due to cost. The survey also found that 48% of students said the cost of textbooks affected which classes they would take and when. According to a well published report by the College Board, college students can spend up to $1200/year on books and materials. What is unique about UWRF is that students do not have to worry about purchasing their books, they are paid for with a separate fee with their tuition. For the academic year 2015-216 students paid $76.02/semester for access to their books. That is a savings of over $1000/year for each student.
The challenge for Textbook Services over the next 5 years will be keeping our new textbook purchase costs within our budget and building our infrastructure as more and more content will be available in electronic format. I look forward to using this blog as a way to communicate to the campus community how textbook services is doing with these challenges.
I would love to engage in conversation with anybody about textbook and instructional materials, so please reach out by any communication means you would like with questions or comments. I hope this can turn into a campus wide conversation about textbooks and instructional materials in general.