Open up to open-source books

MSA’s inclusion of open-source textbooks in its platform is a welcome notion.

In Tuesday’s Minnesota Student Association forum, student government leaders said they will push for open-source textbooks this year.

Open-source books, or free and freely distributed texts, are a welcome challenge to the textbook publishing business model.

With higher prices and wider availability of e-books, students are looking ways to cut costs, such as finding textbooks online or simply not buying them at all.

Publishing association Book Industry Study Group found 34 percent of students report downloading course content from an unauthorized website.

Some publishers ensure that students will break the bank by creating books they will know will become obsolete, and producing new editions of texts to make more money.

In a U.S. Public Interest Research Group study, seven out of 10 students reported deciding not to buy a textbook due to high cost at least once.

Open-source texts shift costs on to publishers and producers, instead of students. Most importantly, they allow for wider access of information.

The danger of including open-source textbooks is that they require an extended vetting process.

In the world of e-books, companies such as Boundless have been accused of illegally producing open-source textbooks.

Educators should not simply teach open-source books without ensuring that the text isn’t of a poor quality, stolen or plagiarized.

For colleges and universities, the ultimate goal should be for students to learn.

MSA has students’ interests in mind by including this in its platform. Through its work, hopefully University academics will begin to adapt courses and appropriate open-source texts.