Talk About This Today: Was Your Last Textbook $30? Your Next One Could Be!

Posted by on Mar 27, 2012 in Communicating with Professors, General | 18 comments

(Welcome to my first post here in WordPress! I hope you enjoy the new space and I just have to offer “huge-mongous”–new word compliments of my 4-year-old Scott–abundant thanks to Christian Hollingsworth, Smart Boy Designs, for creating this presence for me and mentoring me completely through the process. This professor knows when she needs an adept, patient teacher! The universe gave me a gift!

Second note: Remember, only this space has changed, but students, I’m still available 24-7 for questions at and you can “Like” The Chatty Professor on Facebook and the blog will come right to you.

I mentioned ramping up blogging, so here goes. I discussed featuring some news that you can read from me and then share with others… to make you look brilliant and “in the know.” Start THIS conversation today!)

So here’s my question to kick off… How much did you spend on your textbooks this term? How about last term? 

You don’t have to answer. I can already see you starting to flame up. Textbooks cost as much as a used car (okay, not quite… but almost, right?)! 

Sometimes you get $1 in buy-back for the $200 you spent. 

Sometimes you don’t use the text as much as you thought you would (Grr).
With a $30 textbook, you can afford the apple! Woo hoo!
You’re financially sound and healthy–you rock!
Sometimes, maybe you loved the text and you might even want to keep it, but you need that $1 (okay, probably more… $5) to sell it back and get your next $200 textbooks. 

What if I told you that there are forces out there working to drive down your book prices?

(Doesn’t that sound curious? “Forces”! Like Darth Vader and the Transformers are involved or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles… from my day!) 

Since I’ve been blogging, I’ve loosely mentioned a grant project that I’ve been a part of, and this is my second year on that. Well, let me spill it…

Actually, in the spirit of information literacy (because I am a prof at the core, right?), I’m going to have you read about it: Check out this Chronicle of Higher Education piece called:
State of Washington to Offer Online Materials as Texts. Go ahead and click. I’ll wait. The Open Course Library project has received tons more press… USA Today, US News and World Report, Newsweek, etc. You can check that out in a minute.

So, there you have it: Gates Foundation. Washington State. Lots of grant money. Eighty-one of the top-enrolled courses with curriculum available online, developed and distributed free to any faculty member in the world—at a cost of no more than $30 to students.

What does this have to do with you?

Well, there could come a time when you walk into class and your prof will say, “No textbook!” Or, you’ll spend very little on the course materials.

(And you’ll do a conga line in between the row of desks… Will you do that anyway because I soooo want to join in!).

I can’t say that this will happen for all your classes, or that it will happen right away, but there is enough momentum out there, in many states, to feel some hope.

So what’s the communication lesson?
If you are taking a 100- or 200-level course, check out the list of courses for Phase 1 and 2 and share some of this news with your prof. You can even forward this blog or the link to the articles above. I mean, how brilliant will you look when you’re saying,

“Professor, have you heard about this Open Course Library, funded in part by a Gates grant, going on in Washington State?
(The USA Today piece discusses other states with initiatives). I hear there might be some free course materials there that might apply to our class.”

While it would be nice to add an adjective like “great course materials,” truth be told, only your prof can evaluate that. And, to be fair, I’ll tell you, there is some deliberation out there over the quality of open course materials. Read the articles; there are comments on both sides (Great exercise for you to expand those critical thinking skills—look who’s professor-y today!).

I can tell you first-hand, on the grant that I’m on that we have a huge team of expert faculty, instructional designers (I’m one of them), librarians, universal design/globalism specialists, accessibility specialists, subject matter experts, and a quality assurance manager (that would also be me this year), etc. So, quality is abound. But there will still be doubters (and haters! Did I use that term correctly?).

Even if your prof checks out open course curriculum and sees one thing or nothing he can use, at the least, he may be inspired to create some different materials. Or, your prof may be motivated to find a much, much cheaper textbook option for you. She may even scour the internet and find other open source materials, and build curriculum to eliminate textbooks for your course entirely. Hey, it happens!

In coming blog posts, I’ll have more news that you can take from me and talk about yourself. I want you to have lots of conversation starters.

In fact, today or tomorrow, why not say to one of your classmates, “I saw this crazy thing that some college students might pay $30 or less for textbooks.”

You’re going to get attention… in a good way!

Say it forward!

Students, what do you think about the open course movement? Would you feel comfortable not having a textbook? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


  1. New place is looking spiffy! Off to a great start! Not sure how to follow responses to comments, so I might miss it, but: is your book already out, or still being born?

    • Hi, Donn!

      You are my first comment on this post!!!! Yay! Thank you for writing! I hope you don’t miss it. I’m going to ping you on Twitter so we can both learn.

      My galley edits just went in at 1:35 a.m. today. I get a single copy of my book, printed, to edit one last time, then it goes to print. So, early May. A dream come true.

      Has NISOD happened yet? Let’s tweet about it. I want to hear how your “flipping” went!

      • Saw the tweet. Thanks! For other readers wondering, NISOD is the last week in May. You know you’d love to go! [smile] I’m hoping to, perhaps, connect with Lauren Hugs as a bonus, since that’s her stomping grounds, and she’s a UT Austin grad.

        • I would love to go. I don’t have prov dev funds this year, unfortunately. We only get them every other year. Next year is my year. Meet you at NCA? Ellen

  2. My last textbook cost, I think, about $2.95 back in 1973. It’s a crying rotten shame the cost of textbooks now! Well, the cost of college is out of whack, too. My 1st-born is heading off to one that cost about a Porsche EVERY year!

    LOVE the new site, Professor! Congrats. Am I the first comment???!!!???

    • Hi, Bruce,

      Wait, are you serious? Under $3? That’s insane! Yes, the cost of textbooks is sick, and then some students totally complain that they don’t crack their textbooks (which could be on their own volition or because the prof doesn’t use it… who knows?). Let’s not even talk about book buyback. Oy!

      You are the second comment. But I am always glad to hear from you and I’m so excited to be here! You are right! I’m loving this new format already! And I bet the commenting is going to be easier.

      • I guess it is better baecuse justice is served all the way around? It is not justice for me to retake a test that I missed, and it is justice for the professor to be held accountable with her supervisor for being late all the time? So, even though blackmail would potentially benefit her by saving her reputation, and benefit me by letting me retake the test, it would not be justice baecuse both the professor and I would be getting away with our crimes, instead of being punished for our crimes? But is it really a crime for the professor to be late to class? And is it really a crime for me to miss the test? so is it really justice that is occuring when both the professor and I get screwed over when I go strait to her professor to complain in order to avoid illegal blackmail?

    • Don’t remember the cost of mine, but I bought mine right around that same time, and it sounds about right. Of course, a gallon of gas cost around 28 cents, too. lol. (And in case you’re wondering, Ellen, yes, we had electricity back in those days.[smile])

      • Ha ha. I remember when gas was .99. Does that count? We were living in GA at the time and I was in my first tenure-track position :-) . Ellen

      • What’s it take to become a sublime exdeonpur of prose like yourself?

      • My business is particularly shocked that you have a great deal of relating to this area of interest which is subjected so you meant it was thus properly, with so significantly group. Superb one particular, dude! Very special things at this point.

  3. Am I the first to comment? Your new website is AMAZING!!!!

    • Thank you, Eric! You are the third to comment, but I am THRILLED to have you comment. You are AMAZING! Yay! I made it out of Blogger! Can you believe it??? Your ongoing support means the world to me. Can’t wait for our continued discussions. So much to talk about! Ellen

      • More posts of this qutliay. Not the usual c***, please

  4. I do trust all the concepts you’ve introduced for your post. They’re really convincing and can definitely work. Nonetheless, the posts are very short for novices. May just you please prolong them a little from subsequent time? Thank you for the post.

    • Thank you so much for your comments. If you take a look at my other blog where I moved from, you’ll see that the posts were much longer… and it was recommended that I shorten them :-) . I will introduce some multi-part in the future.

      I appreciate your thoughts! I’m always glad to answer questions.

  5. Regards for helping out, wonderful info. If you would convince a man that he does wrong, do right. Men will believe what they see. by Henry David Thoreau.

  6. Hello, I do. The Chatty Professor :-) . Ellen


  1. Teaching Carnival 5.08 - ProfHacker - The Chronicle of Higher Education - [...] “Was Your Last Textbook $30? Your Next One Could Be!“, Ellen Bremen discusses a Washington State effort to bring ...

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