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TJ Jerke, Forum News Service, Published March 06 2013

Lawmakers see savings for students with online books

BISMARCK – Lawmakers would like to see more cash in college students’ pockets by urging schools to move to a cheaper open textbook option, or online book, rather than the traditional printed books.

North Dakota students are currently paying an estimated $900 per semester on textbooks, according to the North Dakota University System. Moving to an open textbook could save a student 80 percent, or $720.

Rep. Thomas Beadle, R-Fargo, is pushing House Concurrent Resolution 3009 to study the use of open textbooks and their viability on North Dakota campuses and House Concurrent Resolution 3013, urging faculty to use the paper-free concept.

Both were passed by the House and were unanimously sent to the Senate floor by the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday.

“We are ushering in a new generation and a new way of doing things,” Beadle said Wednesday.

Besides being in digital form, open source textbooks provide a way for authors to publish their own work, by purchasing their own copyright license, and share textbooks without having to go through a large publishing company.

Open textbooks are licensed under an open copyright license, making a textbook freely available online to students and teachers, and easier to share with other college campuses around the world.

“They do it for free solely based on an educational standpoint,” Beadle said. “An end goal and emphasis is working with like-minded individuals.”

Beadle said California, Texas, Ohio, Washington and Florida are among the states pushing the idea.

North Dakota State University bookstore has more than 200 digital textbooks but has not had a professor ask about, or move to, an open source textbook method, according to Carl Wichman, textbook manager at the NDSU Bookstore.

He said digital sales even decreased from last year, and doesn’t expect to see a large increase soon, particularly for upper-level and graduate courses. He suspects those courses wouldn’t move to an open source textbook because they may lack in quality since they are self-published.

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