Business prof tests cheaper textbooks

Frank Markham, a business professor from Mesa State College, is giving his students some relief from $100 college textbooks.

“As a professor, I am concerned with the cost of college for students,” Markham said. “And for textbooks, $100 for a book is on the light side.”

Markham agreed to test a new textbook publisher, Flat World Knowledge, in his Introduction to Business course after the author of his preferred textbook, “Exploring Business,” migrated to the publishing company. Markham is one of a handful of college professors, and the only one in Colorado, doing the test, which has a range of prices for different versions of the textbook and operates under a direct marketing approach rather than mass mailing textbooks to bookstores.

“Exploring Business” would have cost his students $100, Markham said. With the new publisher, the book would range in cost from $60 for a full-color version to free for an online version, which cannot be printed, he said.

Markham said only four students out of a class of 70 decided not to buy some version of the book.

After the test, Markham said, next fall he will be able to access an electronic version of the textbooks, modify and tailor the content to his course curriculum and give students the option of purchasing the modified copy of the book.

“I’m impressed by the ability to modify the books,” Markham said.

But the test has not come without problems, Markham said, although none of the problems he has encountered thus far have been unexpected.

“I won’t say I didn’t have any illusions that didn’t prove true,” Markham said.

Markham said he can download instructional materials that accompany the textbook, such as Powerpoint presentations, but sometimes the material is not complete, and Web access is not user-friendly.

Bryan Ferraro with Flat World said 30 professors around the country are participating in the test. Although Flat World’s textbooks are free online, Ferraro said the company generates revenue by selling versions of the book in print or in audio chapters of textbooks, and selling digital study aids.

Markham said although technology is speeding up the printing process, and the Internet is increasing competition for traditional publishers, he doesn’t think hard copies of textbooks will be completely phased out.

“I think the capacity for completely electronic textbooks will be there,” Markham said. “In a study setting especially, however, there will always be a demand for the actual book to highlight and make notes in.”



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