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State

University of Illinois professor embraces open-source textbooks

CHAMPAIGN (AP) – One professor at the University of Illinois thought textbooks were getting too expensive, so he partnered with other educators to write their own book and make it available online to download for free.

“It’s hard to buy a textbook for less than $100 these days,” said Jonathan Tomkin, associate director of the U of I School of Earth, Society and Environment told the News-Gazette. “I’m a big proponent of open-source textbooks. I think the quality can be really high, and I think they’re great for students.”

The book he worked on, “Sustainability: A Comprehensive History,” has been used at a dozen colleges and universities. He co-edited the book with a University of Chicago professor and several U of I professor contributed chapters.

The Illinois Student Senate approved a resolution last March asking the campus to offer incentives to faculty who use open-source textbooks.

Junior Matthew Hill, Illinois Student Senate vice president, said a physics book used in one class cost $250, but he found an open-source book with similar content that would have saved students in the class more than $100,000.

“I’m a big supporter of open textbooks,” Hill said. “It’s cheaper for students, it gives professors a lot of flexibility, and you can use the textbook in really creative ways. It’s about sharing information, and it can empower people who don’t have access to education.”

The Association of American Publishers opposes any legislation that would subsidize open-source textbooks, said David Anderson, the association’s higher education executive director. But he says he sees room for both in the future.

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Information from: The News-Gazette, http://www.news-gazette.com

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