Discussion of free textbooks continues

Hannah Lentz

A student in the U.S. will spend about $1,200 a year on books and supplies, according to a recent report by the College Board. However, through the efforts of several individuals at Grand Valley State University, this expenditure may be reduced.

Scott St. Louis, the vice president of the educational affairs committee on Student Senate, and Lee Van Orsdel, dean of University Libraries, held a lecture regarding the idea of open access on March 17. Open access stands for the publics’ right to unrestricted use and reuse of educational journals and other materials. It is generally used for scholarly or peer-reviewed articles, but book chapters, theses and monographs are also becoming available online.

“Open access is one of the most important issues for this generation,” Van Orsdel said. “This can help to open the door for additional information that can be provided through the Internet.”

In a 2011 Campus Climate survey done at GVSU, it was shown that 57 percent of students suffer from financial hardship on campus, and 69 percent of those students had difficulty affording textbooks.

Students aren’t the only ones struggling, though. Institutions such as GVSU are often faced with the choice of whether to pay astronomical amounts to publishing companies for rights to their materials or providing fewer resources for their students. The idea of open access is to eliminate the online fees that are required to read articles due to publishers’ monopolies on the rights to these materials.

Though taxes and tuition dollars pay for much of the research being published, the public is still locked out of accessing this information, causing a flaw in the information system, said Van Orsdel. It prevents students from doing accurate research and makes it harder for professors to properly update their materials.

Van Orsdel added that open access could provide students accelerated discovery, public enrichment and an improved education. She said that giving the public a greater access to information could lead to more incredible and intellectual discoveries.

St. Louis agreed.

“Innovation is fueled by knowledge. To extract the greatest amount of positive returns from the public good that is scholarly research, the public needs better access,” he said. “Creative disruption is often frightening at first, but it can bring untold benefits to our society.”

Both Van Orsdel and St. Louis urged students to take several different measures to promote open access across campus. They recommend that students publish their research in ScholarWorks to increase the potential audience of their own work. More than 750,000 full text downloads have been made from GVSU’s ScholarWorks in countries around the world.

Additionally, they asked students to encourage their professors to consider looking for an open access textbook for classroom use to save money and promote universal education.

“As the next generation of scholars, doctors, entrepreneurs and conscientious citizens, it is up to us students to set the pace,” St. Louis said.

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