Public Domain Material: Possible Alternative to High Priced Textbooks?

Textbooks prices have been skyrocketing. Obviously, textbooks are essential to many of our courses. In some cases, our transfer articulations with four year schools could be jeopardized if certain textbooks are not used.

However, higher education faculty at both four-year and two-year institutions are increasingly exploring alternatives to high priced textbooks from the publishing houses. One possible alternative is the growing body of "public domain" books and material, especially those available in digital format.

If you are using alternatives to publishing house textbooks, please post your strategies here. A dialogue on this topic could be useful to all faculty.


At 2/15/2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 2/17/2007, Blogger Jon said...

Luckily, I don't teach a course requiring special textbooks for University transfer.

I try to find books under $35. If there is nothing exceptional in that range, than I find a free book or tutorials online.

However, since many students feel more secure having a reference in hand, and most books cover basically the same info, I will encourage folks to find their own reference (if they don't already have one).

The objectives for the week are stated in the assignment, so that they can easily be looked up in another resource.

This seems flexible enough in my classes to make everybody happy.

At 4/16/2007, Blogger Paul Mueller said...


merlot.org is a pretty good resource to find and submit peer review materials for teaching.

At 5/04/2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought I heard Jim say once in a meeting that in some cases, using online books may affect articulation. Did I hear that correctly? I have been under the impression that we have to be very careful about using an approved book, but would like to experiment more if it isn't as critical as I thought. How could we verify how much freedom we have in textbook alternatives without endangering any existing articulation agreements? -Dave Topham

At 9/06/2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It has been quite a long time since anyone commented here. There is a contradiction that I see and I wonder if anyone can shed some light on it. I am told that a course must declare a current textbook in order to get approved. Current has been defined as 5 years or newer. But electronic books and free reference materials are hard to pin down as to the publication date. How can we resolve this? Is my course allowed to have students use no required printed textbook? And still articulate? Who could answer a question such as this? I have asked a few UC professors and they say there is no such rule at their own universities. They can use whatever materials they see as appropriate no matter what date that were published. They can use their own notes exclusively.

-Dave Topham

At 12/01/2008, Blogger Heather said...

I teach my history of rock and roll in the 1950s course exclusively using gale virtual reference library (e-books) and articles from JSTOR.org, which our library has subscriptions to. Both of these offer outstanding (and the most current) academic resources. They also allow for diversity in academic opinion, rather than the single view offered in textbooks. I can bring in perspectives from ethnomusicologist, historians, sociologists, etc. which I can't do when limited to one text.

I strongly encourage folks to check out what KG, Kathy, Barbara, and the rest of our fabulous librarians have been acquiring for us. You can basically create your own electronic reader for your students. It is pretty amazing.

My students have all raved about the reading (and they're actually doing the reading). If you have a class that doesn't have to be wedded to a specific textbook consider exploring what we have here. It is more work than just ordering a textbook, but I find the pay off in terms of student engagement is worth it.


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