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Buying online may ease cost of textbooks for students

Online books could save students money. Photo by Cory Correia.

Online books could save students money. Photo by Cory Correia.

Textbook fees are an unavoidable burden each semester. But the financial stress may become easier to bear, as the Ministry of Advanced Education has announced that online open textbooks for forty popular post-secondary courses will be available for free.

According to the government of British Columbia Newsroom, open publication licences will permit students to view and download textbooks online at no cost, or obtain a printed copy for a small fee.

The provincial government is aiming to make these new resources available for use at BC post-secondary institutions by September 2014, and will be available in disciplines such as business, humanities, sciences, and the arts.

BCcampus, a publicly funded organization that provides online student services, is tasked with developing the Open Textbook Project. Currently, they are adapting existing openly-licensed textbooks for use, before the final phase of creating new open textbooks begins, according to the BCcampus website.

BCcampus already makes learning materials available for free through their Shareable Online Learning Resources repository or SOL*R.

Minister of Advanced Education, Amrik Virk said the program will prove beneficial to both students and instructors.

“Instructors can use them, modify them as required, and a student can research them, they can print them, or he or she can pull them up on their electronic device,” said Minister Virk.

First-year carpentry apprentice student Trevor Kootney said the free online textbooks may just be the answer for him; he said the books are not worth the cost.

“If the information in those books was useful enough for me throughout my career I might have considered buying it,” said Kootney. “For the most part once I’ve learned it here in class and I go and practice it out in the real world I shouldn’t need those books.”

Kootney said paying for post-secondary school is hard as it is.

“A lot of us have bills to pay. It would just go a long way to making this easier for all of us,” he explained.

Despite the positive steps that this project would mean for reducing costs for students like Kootney, Canadian Federation of Students representative, Zach Crispin claims that the Open Textbook Project is not doing enough to address student debt.

“The money that’s going into this program is not the sort of amounts of money that we would need to put in to make education more accessible,” said Crispin. “If we don’t start thinking about accessibility to post secondary education, then issues of student debt and underfunding of our education system are going to become worse.”

Minister Virk said the open textbooks program is only the start of what he hopes will be a nation-wide trend of offering free online open textbooks to students.

With files from Neetu Garcha