Student association urges U to put more textbooks online

By Jamie Bowen, Chris Mumford

The Utah Student Association is proposing to make textbooks free by offering them online.

USA, composed of all student body officers from every Utah college, has tentatively proposed to have Utah colleges and universities make more use of money-saving methods. These could range from open-source textbooks, which are electronic textbooks that volunteering scholars co-author for free, to custom publishing arrangements or an electronic or print publisher-authorized compilation of excerpts from several existing texts so textbooks are free or affordable, said Andrew Jensen, director of USA.

“The textbook initiative attempts to save money for students,” Jensen said.

However, some students question professors’ willingness to write something for free, in terms of the open-source textbook, when they could be paid for publishing their own text8212;especially since many U professors are burdened with teaching additional classes and sections under the budget cuts.

“Professors, I just figure, they’ve got to make money,” said Jeremy Brown, a senior in music.

Another potential problem with the proposal is that leaders in their fields don’t often contribute to open-source textbooks, therefore making them less appealing for professors to assign, Jensen said.

Christian Faulkner, a junior in international studies, said students might not get the best material if professors did choose to use online texts from obscure authors.

The other options for buying textbooks range from online bookstores, e-books, book rentals and guaranteed buyback options.

Erika Roetman, a freshman in political science, chose to go the traditional route and buy her books from the University Campus Store, but said she feels like she paid more than she wanted to, even though most were used.

Other students order their books online where prices are often lower than the bookstore but often wait longer to get them. Such is the case for Greg Dunn, a sophomore in civil engineering, who purchased his books from but said they have yet to arrive.

The online initiative is the best option out there, said Tayler Clough, U student body president and USA vice president.

“It affects all students here and it will provide students with a better source and financially feasible book,” he said.

Although the change in books would be beneficial for the student body as a whole, it would hurt the bookstore and their employees, some of whom are students.

“It would be a big hit (to the store),” said Earl Clegg, director of the bookstore. “We staff the store according to book sales.”

Although the bookstore would be hurt by the proposal, it is still in favor of the new textbook option.

“I think it would be great to get free textbooks,” Clegg said.

In the past two years, the bookstore has tried to cut costs for students using deals such as the guaranteed buyback program, in which students are guaranteed 50 percent of the original price paid for the book when sold back to the bookstore, said Shane Girton, associate director of the bookstore.

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Sean Sullivan

Alexis Verson, a senior in nursing, shops for her textbooks at the U Campus Store on Tuesday. Students could avoid going to the bookstore if ASUU can make their proposal of online textbooks become a reality.