College students could soon save thousands of dollars each year on textbooks. Illinois US Senator Dick Durbin and Senator Al Franken, from Minnesota, are proposing a bill so colleges and universities can provide more textbooks online for free.
Franken says the cost of textbooks has risen 82-percent over the last decade, and the average student spends over $1,200 on books each year. And, textbooks are one of the most "overlooked costs" when it comes to college affordability.
“Students would say, ‘I have to pay $150 for this paperback book,’ and the professor of the course – who was in the room -- said, ‘$150?!’ She didn’t know,” Franken said. “Isn’t that amazing?”
Ethan Senack, from the US Public Interest Research Group, says the Affordable College Textbook Act would allow colleges to apply for grants, to support the creation and use of open college textbooks-- books that are available under an open license, and can be accessed online by students, faculty, and the public. He says students are a captive market for publishers, because they can't choose what they buy.
Senack says the bill could save college students in the U.S. $1 billion each year. It would also give professors more flexibility in how they use educational materials.
The University of Illinois and University of Minnesota already tested open textbooks online. In 2012, Illinois spent $150,000 in federal funds to publish a book online, and 60,000 people accessed it for free.