The University of Texas at Austin
  • Low-cost textbook alternative becomes a reality

    By Michelle Bryant
    Michelle Bryant
    Published: Jan. 22, 2010

    With textbooks often costing more than rent, many students will be relieved to know the Texas Language Technology Center (TLTC) is working on an alternative to the bulky old textbook that’s easier on the wallet and offers interactive features and compelling content.

    Thanks to a $263,000 award from the U.S. Department of Education — who has developed a publishing model for foreign language instructional materials to combat the rising costs of textbooks — the collaboratively published textbook will allow students and instructors to customize materials by editing existing content or adding their own.

    Carl Blyth“Improving foreign languages curriculum for students is our first goal,” said Carl Blyth, TLTC director. “But at the same time, we want to produce scholarship and pedagogical products that we can give away to the world. This is something the university is doing for the greater good that’s central to the open education movement.”

    The award brings the TLTC’s grant funding total to more than $1 million since its inception three years ago. In fall 2007, TLTC in collaboration with Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services (LAITS) was awarded a three-year, $540,000 grant, and in spring 2008 it was awarded a two-year, $250,000 grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

    In its latest endeavor, TLTC will form a publishing consortium with Rice University, Texas Christian University and Lone Star Community College in Houston.

    The goal is to create an online French textbook that will be free of charge and free of copyright and licensing restrictions, as well as a print-on-demand version that will be available for a fraction of the cost of most commercially published textbooks.

    A beginning foreign language textbook typically costs $125 (and $200 with all the ancillaries, such as audio tapes, video tapes and workbooks). By comparison, Fran├žais interactif, a TLTC online curriculum aimed at first-year French students, offers a range of prices and options: free downloadable PDFs or print-on-demand textbooks delivered to your doorstep for just $16.95 for black and white, or $50.95 for color.

    “In the old days you’d go to a language lab and hear the input, but the input was very inauthentic: ‘Repeat after me,’” mimics Blyth. “You need to see people talking. We’re trying to get students to communicate and that requires a context, it requires another person. It’s not simply language as an abstraction and learning the rules. It’s language as an interaction.”

    Continue reading about the flexibility and cost-effectiveness of Web-based textbooks.

    • Quote 2
      Dreamingofeducation said on Nov. 9, 2011 at 1:06 p.m.
      Textbooks are so expensive. I remember having to borrow money as well. At times, we were sharing a textbook between three of us because one was $300 and that was too pricey. There is enough stress financially as well as pressure to do well. We are in the digital age. Put it all on computers and accessible on Kindle.
    • Quote 2
      correa said on Aug. 24, 2011 at 8:02 p.m.
      muy educativo articulo enlazado de este problema yo espero volver a descubrir articulos tan exelente como este. bye
    • Quote 2
      scholarships for womens said on March 16, 2011 at 6:19 a.m.
      I certainly does make it simpler with "digital books". But they still require a lot of work and money up front to be made. I myself prefer the old text book, as there is too much distractions going on on the computer :) But that's just me!
    • Quote 2
      Baby Samples Mom said on Feb. 10, 2011 at 11:30 p.m.
      All I can say is - it's about time! It's absurd to gouge college students for learning materials, especially when they are usually borrowing taxpayer money to do so. Between my undergraduate and MBA I probably spent around 10k on books alone. And of course the biggest joke was going to sell back my books only to be told that the $150 textbook I bought 3.5 months ago was not being used anymore.
    • Quote 2
      Kattie Ferratella said on Feb. 2, 2011 at 3:46 p.m.
      After research just a few of the weblog posts in your web site now, and I really like your approach of blogging. I bookmarked it to my bookmark website record and shall be checking back soon. Pls check out my web page as properly and let me know what you think.
    • Quote 2
      game said on Jan. 17, 2011 at 10:32 a.m.
      I like low-cost textbook. It 's very nice!!!
    • Quote 2
      Mary said on Jan. 16, 2011 at 11:13 a.m.
      I believe that renting textbooks will be the main way that students will get their textbooks in the future. This novel idea is gaining steam semester after semester. Have you noticed the number of textbook rental sites that are going online weekly? When students are able to save up to 75% off the regular price, you bet, textbook rentals is here to stay.
    • Quote 2
      melasma treatment said on Jan. 10, 2011 at 7:21 a.m.
      Thats really nice
    • Quote 2
      college scholarships for high school seniors said on Nov. 16, 2010 at 10:50 p.m.
      I think that you should remember that although digital downloads are cheaper, they still require a large up front invesment to run them - i.e purchasing laptops, kindles etc
    • Quote 2
      scholarships for high school seniors said on Oct. 16, 2010 at 12:54 p.m.
      I still don't understand why the cost of textbooks should be beyond the means of the average student... With digital downloads becoming so prevalent, including audio books, one would've thought that College textbooks would have gone the way of mp3 music - cheap and ubiquitous, but I guess someone somewhere is smiling all the way to the bank. Pretty sad, even the $263,000 award from the U.S. Department of Education is not likely to fill the void.
    • Quote 2
      Free Digital Textbooks Initiative Receives $263,000 « said on Jan. 29, 2010 at 1:24 p.m.
      [...] 29, 2010 · Leave a Comment Michelle Bryant is reporting that the Texas Language Technology Center (TLTC) has received $263,000 to create [...]
    • Quote 2
      JoAnn Ayres said on Jan. 27, 2010 at 7:20 a.m.
      I think you might be looking into a Kindle type affair for textbooks. What a boon that would be to order books online and carry them in one slim, backpack friendly device. And all notes, etc. can be made internally and transferred to the computer for later use.
    • Quote 2
      David said on Jan. 27, 2010 at 5:28 a.m.
      How can I apply for admission to your university if am not a USA citizen?
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