Copyright

Build-Your-Own Textbooks Could Save Students Hundreds

According to a 2010 report from the advocacy group StudentPIRGs, it's not uncommon for college students to spend around $900 per year on their textbooks. But the crunch of tough economic times, combined with innovations in technology, has offered up some solutions to that problem. Among them are customizable textbooks, a new trend that publishers from small upstarts to major players in the academic world have begun to embrace.

View popular schools

By Eric Garneau

custom textbooks e-books digital books low-cost textbooks

Why Customizable Texts?

When money gets tight, expenses become scrutinized more carefully then before. It's no surprise, then, that the last few years of economic downturn have cast a brighter light on the high costs of textbooks. In 2008, the federal government even got involved, including regulations in the Higher Education Opportunity Act requiring textbook publishers to adopt more transparent business tactics. Yet still prices remain stratospheric, and the question remains: why should students have to pay upwards of hundreds of dollars for a book, especially if they don't even use the whole thing?

That question drives the field of customizable textbooks, which allow instructors to cherry-pick just what material goes into required course purchases. Though the practice of teachers building their own texts has been around for awhile, only recently has it become more accepted. That acceptance has been bolstered by some new businesses expressly developed to help produce custom books and save students money.

Teachers have a number of options for their custom texts, depending on how in-depth they want to go. Many publishers offer their own pre-approved content library for inclusion; for instance, the company Flat World Knowledge sells pre-written, peer-vetted texts that teachers can edit as they see fit. But teachers can also create books from scratch using their own work and other freely available Internet material. In other words, customizing a textbook can be as simple as deleting chapters you know your course won't get to or as complex as generating all the book's content yourself. In reality, most custom texts probably fall somewhere in the middle.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Agriculture
  • Architecture
  • Biological and Biomedical Sciences
  • Business
  • Communications and Journalism
  • Computer Sciences
  • Culinary Arts and Personal Services
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • Legal
  • Liberal Arts and Humanities
  • Mechanic and Repair Technologies
  • Medical and Health Professions
  • Physical Sciences
  • Psychology
  • Transportation and Distribution
  • Visual and Performing Arts

Benefit to Students

Professors who decide to adopt custom texts can do a whole lot of good for their students. For starters, custom books are by design cheaper than their traditional counterparts, and everything students pay for is relevant material. Many custom textbook publishers offer numerous purchasing options, including the ability to choose between full-color or black and white texts. Some also offer print-on-demand options so students can pay for chapters as they need them and print them out using their own paper, thus saving even more money.

Sometimes, custom textbooks can even be free. As a part of the attempt to become more relevant to student needs, publishers have embraced e-learning as a viable means of distribution. Most custom textbook publishers therefore offer digital versions of their books. Students can either purchase their book as a file to view on an e-reader like a Kindle or, using their web browser, they can sometimes view the course reading at no cost to themselves. That's especially handy if they have a tablet PC or other device that makes mobile Internet reading a more natural activity.

Benefit to Teachers

Of course it's not only students who stand to gain from using custom texts. Educators, too, benefit from their adoption, in both obvious and not-so-obvious ways. For one, student satisfaction at having to spend less money can never be a bad thing. Teachers can also rest easy having, in theory, personally vetted all of the material in the texts they're teaching from. There can even be a monetary reward for them - many custom textbook publishers offer modest commissions to professors whose students buy books of their design. That might provide further incentive for educators, if any was needed, to take a hard look at the possibilities of custom textbooks.

Some Top Resources

If you're an educator looking to get started with customizable, open textbooks, check out the sites below. Two are small publishers that will help you build the books you need, one's an offshoot of a major player adapting to its clients' desires and yet another's an excellent source of free material you can use to round out your own books. Each of the sites staff representatives designed to help you navigate your way through the world of open publishing, so don't be afraid to dive in!

Perhaps we ought to consider the question: should professors be allowed to assign their own books?

Next: View Schools

What is your highest level of education?

Some College
Complete your degree or find the graduate program that's right for you.
High School Diploma
Explore schools that offer bachelor and associate degrees.
Still in High School
Earn your diploma or GED. Plan your undergraduate education.

Schools you may like:

Popular Schools

The listings below may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users.

  • What is your highest level of education?

    • Master of Science in Nursing - Doctor of Nursing Practice Path, Executive Leader Specialization
    • Doctor of Nursing Practice
    • Master of Science in Nursing - Doctor of Nursing Practice Path
    • Master of Science in Legal Studies
    • MS in Psychology
    • MBA
    • Master of Public Health
    • MBA - Human Resources
    • MBA - Health Care Management
    • BS in Liberal Studies
    • BS in Business Administration
    • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Investment Career Focus Area
    • BS in Liberal Studies Leadership
    • BS in Nutrition Science
    • BSFIN in Accelerated MS Finance
    • AAS in Business Administration - Business
    • AAS in Legal Support and Services
    • AAS in Business Administration
    • AAS in Business Admin-Office Management
    • AAS in Criminal Justice
    • AAS in Accounting
    • Medical Office Administration Certificate
    • Human Services Certificates in Child and Family Services
    • Pathway to Paralegal Postbaccalaureate Certificate
    • Medical Billing and Coding Certificate
    • Family Nurse Practitioner Graduate Certificate
    • Executive Leader Graduate Certificate

    What is your highest level of education completed?

    • MA in Communication
    • Master of Liberal Arts
    • MA in Science Writing
    • MS in Applied Economics
    • MS in Geographic Information Systems
    • MS in Bioinformatics

    What is your highest level of education?

    • Master of Science in Finance
    • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
    • Master of Professional Studies in Real Estate

    What is your highest level of education completed?

    • Automotive Technology
    • Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC)
    • Electrical/Electronics

    What year did you graduate High School / Receive GED?

    • Master of Business Administration with a General Business Specialization
    • Master of Business Administration - Entrepreneurship and Family Enterprise Concentration
    • Master of Business Administration - Finance Concentration
    • Master of Business Administration - Human Resource Management Concentration
    • Master of Business Administration - Hospitality and Casino Management Concentration
    • Master of Business Administration - International Business Concentration

    What is your highest level of education completed?

    • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Healthcare Leadership
    • Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership
    • Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership - Ecclesial Leadership
    • Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership - Entrepreneurial Leadership
    • Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership - Individualized
    • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Global Consulting
    • Master of Arts in Communication
    • Master of Arts in Communication - Political Communication
    • Master of Arts in Communication - Strategic Communication
    • Master of Arts in Government - Political Communication
    • Master of Arts in Journalism
    • Master of Arts in Law - Business
    • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies
    • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies - Rhetoric and Public Culture
    • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies - Strategic Communication
    • Bachelor of Arts in English - Communication
    • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Criminal Justice
    • Bachelor of Science in Business

    What is your highest level of education completed?

    • Master of Business Administration
    • Associate in Business Administration Management
    • Associate in Medical Assisting
    • Associate in Network Administration
    • Paralegal
    • Diploma in Accounting
    • Diploma in Business Administration
    • Diploma in Medical Office Professional
    • Diploma in Pharmacy Technician
    • Certificate in Phlebotomy
    • Diploma in Medical Billing and Coding

    What is your education level?

  • What is your highest level of education completed?

    • Online Master of Professional Studies in Cybersecurity Management
    • Online Master of Professional Studies in Information Technology Management

    What is your highest level of education completed?

Find your perfect school

What is your highest level of education?