UC Committee Announces Flat World Knowledge as Publisher for New E-Text Adoption Plan

Thousands of University of Cincinnati students will be getting a new textbook next fall when they enroll in an introductory psychology course. But instead of paying as much as $193 for a traditional hard-copy textbook, they can view their book online, anytime and anywhere, for free.

A selection committee represented by UC faculty, students and student services staff overwhelmingly recommended Flat World Knowledge as the publisher of the UC textbook alternative after six of the nation’s top college textbook publishers demonstrated their services at UC last fall.

Beginning next fall, UC students taking the introductory psychology course can view the book free online. They can also purchase a suite of digital formats for $35 to use on their iPads, e-readers, notebooks or smartphones. Or, they can order a $35 black-and-white print option or a $70 color option from UC Bookstores.

Flat World Knowledge was selected for the initiative as the selection committee considered factors including value, adequacy of course content, customizable content for faculty, as well as content materials to support students with disabilities.

Charles Ginn, a UC associate professor of psychology, says as many as 5,000 students will get the price break next year, since the course also satisfies academic college requirements for non-psychology majors. Ginn says the e-text adoption plan has the potential to be adopted across the state as part of the Ohio Digital Bookshelf Project, an initiative under the University System of Ohio (USO) Strategic Plan for Higher Education to develop a high-quality, affordable, flexible system of higher education with a wide range of educational options.

“Under this pilot project, we can now be certain that course content materials are available to the students, because price is no longer a factor,” Ginn says. “Due to rapidly increasing costs, more and more students are deciding not to purchase assigned textbooks. At some community colleges and other institutions of higher education, some students even postpone the pursuit of their degrees because the cost of textbooks equals or exceeds the cost of tuition.” 

The university and the publisher have agreed to a four-year commitment to maintain the price of the initiative.

The e-text version of the book, Introduction to Psychology by Charles Stangor, will also be made available on the website of the Ohio Digital Bookshelf Project. Through that availability, other state institutions that are members of the USO can choose the book for the course.

The selection committee was led by Ginn, who recruited students, faculty, IT and disability services staff to help make the adoption decision. Stephen Acker, research director for the OhioLINK/Ohio Board of Regents Digital Bookshelf Project, served as advisor to the committee.

“Charley Ginn’s research, advocacy and ‘walk-the-walk’ teaching experiences with digital textbooks have made major contributions to textbook affordability for students across the state,” says Acker. “This 360-degree focus on the student in the adoption decision is an innovative model that can be adapted to serve other departments and campuses,” says Acker.

“UC’s textbook selection process put student needs front and center, and created a level playing field for innovative models that addressed those needs,” said Eric Frank, president of Flat World Knowledge. “Their decision to select Flat World sends a clear message that new approaches can solve a critical problem in the classroom – ensuring that high quality textbooks are accessible to everyone and available any way a student prefers to learn.”

“Flat World should be commended for thinking proactively for developing textbooks for students who require materials in a format which will satisfy their individual needs – materials which they can access directly from the publisher’s website,” says Michael Southern, director of UC Disability Services and member of the e-text search committee. “The standard print version of a textbook may not be useful for a student with a visual disability. But having the same text in e-book form allows the student to navigate via an iPad, laptop or other electronic device independently. Flat World has set the standard for others to aspire,” Southern says.

Founded in 2007, Flat World Knowledge is the largest publisher of expert-authored and peer-reviewed open college textbooks for students worldwide. The company reports that students at more than 2,000 colleges and universities are using Flat World textbooks during the 2011/2012 academic year.


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