Jan. 29, 2013

Technology Grant and Libraries Support SUNY Authors to Reduce Textbook Costs


GENESEO, N.Y. - Faculty from SUNY Geneseo are joining colleagues from other SUNY campuses in authoring "open textbooks" with support from libraries to help reduce the cost of higher education.

State University of New York libraries are collaborating with SUNY faculty on innovative publishing initiatives to develop free online textbooks through the Open SUNY Textbook Program, a new academic- friendly publishing model.

The program will produce 15 free online textbooks this year, thanks to the support from a SUNY Innovative Instruction Technology Grant (IITG) and library funding, the time and talent of librarians and consultation by SUNY Press. The program includes:

  • incentives to SUNY faculty authors and peer reviewers to produce open textbooks
  • editing and instructional design support services using a cooperative library service framework
  • and a publishing platform using Open Monograph Press - an open source software recently released by the Public Knowledge Project

With only a two-week call for proposals to SUNY faculty, the program received 38 proposals for open textbooks. When the participating libraries realized how many great proposals they received, and grant funding limited the possible number to publish to four textbooks, libraries stepped up to the plate to contribute additional funding to help produce even more textbooks than originally planned. The new goal is to publish 15 excellent textbooks in disciplines across the curriculum: one each in anthropology, business and music; two each in computer sciences, education and math; and three each in English and the sciences.

"It is inspiring to see how many SUNY faculty are interested in producing innovative high-quality textbooks that reduce college costs for students, and to see how many libraries are eager to help provide support and service," said SUNY Geneseo Library Director Cyril Oberlander, principal investigator for the program and project editor. "Faculty and libraries can create incredible opportunities for higher education to share resources globally and also to meet local needs."

Participating and supporting libraries include: The College at Brockport; SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry; SUNY Fredonia, SUNY Geneseo; University at Buffalo; and SUNY Upstate Medical University. SUNY Morrisville has offered to assist with copy editing some of the textbooks.

Libraries demonstrate they are willing to contribute time, talent, and funds to support this innovative publishing program. Publishing tasks and roles are expected to be sourced, much like at university presses. Librarians, however, will be key to offering these authors a range of invaluable services such as copy editing, loading and proofing files, applying metadata, indexing, or offering support with resources and interactive content strategies.

"I am very impressed with the mutual interest and responsiveness of SUNY faculty authors and reviewers, and librarians to produce high quality open textbooks," said Oberlander. "The librarians are developing new editorial workflows and services, incorporating instructional designers, and significantly contributing to open education. Producing innovative open textbooks can help reduce the cost of higher education to students, and it can also reduce the cost to libraries and institutions."

"Open e-content for courses can help to lower textbook costs for students, provide a showcase for SUNY faculty authors and enrich partnerships with academic libraries. This is a win for everyone," said Mary Jo Orzech, director of Drake Memorial Library at the College at Brockport.

"The State University of New York has over 450,000 student enrollments. If we can create open textbooks that save one out of 10 students $30, the total savings will be over $1.3 million," said Carey Hatch, associate provost for academic technologies and information service for SUNY. "Librarians have been at the forefront of the digital revolution in higher education, and it is good to see them assuming a leadership position in this new form of content creation and distribution."

The Open SUNY Textbook Program hopes to expand the number of textbooks produced and libraries participating next year. It will also focus on the development of interactive books that provide learning assessments.

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