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UC Teams with OhioLINK to Reduce Textbook Costs for University System of Ohio College Students

As today’s tech-savvy student pursues an education, UC takes a lead in a statewide initiative to reduce textbook costs.

Date: 4/12/2010 12:00:00 AM
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Lisa Ventre

UC ingot   UC’s Psychology Department is playing a key role in examining whether today’s student would prefer to get the text of their coursework through their iPhones, their Notepad software or online. It’s part of the State of Ohio’s commitment to improve textbook affordability and student learning for Ohio college students.
Charles Ginn
Charles Ginn

Charles Ginn, associate professor for the UC Psychology Department, is joining Stephen Acker, research director of OhioLINK’s eText Project, on implementing the Ohio Digital Bookshelf Project. Professors and leaders of departments of one of the most prevalent courses taken on Ohio college campuses – introductory psychology – can help shape the future of a new e-textbook option for faculty that can improve learning outcomes and deliver discounted pricing on the most popular introductory psychology textbooks used in Ohio.

The initiative is part of the University System of Ohio’s affordable textbook efforts in accordance with the State of Ohio’s 10-year Strategic Plan for Higher Education. The strategic plan calls for a high-quality, affordable, flexible system of higher education that offers a wide range of educational options for students.

The Ohio Library and Information Network (OhioLINK), of which UC is a founding member, grew from an Ohio Board of Regents recommendation to create a statewide library cataloging system. OhioLINK is an online library consortium which opens the collections of 88 university and college libraries, as well as the State Library of Ohio, to its members.


In exploring the need for a digital bookshelf, Ginn says college textbooks can now cost between $600-800 per academic quarter, even exceeding tuition costs on some Ohio campuses. “Something has to change,” Ginn says. “An increasing number of students are simply not purchasing required texts, opting to depend on their professor’s PowerPoint lectures or Googling Wikipedia.”

Unlike similar projects underway in other states, Ginn says this initiative focuses on ensuring that the textbook selection process remains up to professors designing their coursework, rather than mandating material to apply to similar courses across the state.

The Digital Bookshelf Project is currently bringing together psychology departments across the State of Ohio to offer students e-textbook choices from five major publishers. Ginn says the goal of the project is to work with the publishers and university bookstores to provide students the alternative of purchasing textbooks or e-texts.

The statewide effort follows a major study of UC students taking an introductory psychology course in autumn 2008. The study followed 2,000 students enrolled in 14 introductory psychology sections that introduced a new textbook, so purchasing a used textbook was not an option.

Instead, students had the choice of buying a bound, print copy of the new textbook for $134, or selecting an e-text version for $50. Ginn says the study included traditional-aged students (18-24), non-traditional students, students taking courses in the classroom and students taking courses online.

The survey found that 21.8 percent of the survey participants purchased the e-text, and that 41 percent of those e-text users reported preferring a digital textbook to the traditional, hard-copy textbook. Students in online sections were slightly more likely to purchase the e-text. Traditional-aged college students were 1.73 times more likely to purchase the e-text than students over age 24 – an indication of their experience in growing up in the digital revolution and easily adapting to new technology.

Because introductory psychology fills academic humanities requirements for general student populations, the expanded Ohio Digital Bookshelf pilot project could reach more than 70,000 students in Ohio.

“Universities across Ohio are facing similar challenges with semester conversion, evolving technology, increasing textbook costs and fewer students buying them, because students can’t afford the cost,” Ginn says. “We can go to great lengths to select the best available text, only to have upwards of 25 percent of our students not having access to our course content if they can’t afford to buy the textbook.

“We have visited a number of campuses in the University System of Ohio higher education system and have found consistent enthusiasm among our colleagues to come together to address this issue,” Ginn says. “UC’s efforts with our introductory psychology texts will serve as a model for similar efforts among our colleagues. This entirely voluntary effort will become a true manifestation of the concept of a University System of Ohio,” says Ginn.

The statewide project is planning to introduce the Ohio Digital Bookshelf pilot to students taking introductory psychology by this fall.