Chemeketa ‘recreates’ a $200 textbook — for $18

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Chemeketa ‘recreates’ a $200 textbook — for $18

10:11 p.m. PDT October 5, 2015

Chemeketa Community College is taking a novel step to help reduce costs for its students: The school is publishing its own textbooks.

Textbooks are a considerable expense. Cost estimates range from $655 a year per student (according to the National Association of College Stores) to $1,168 (according to the College Board). And that number can easily go higher, depending on the student’s major, with some textbooks costing upwards of $300 each.

But Chemeketa Community College is producing its own textbooks that can be sold at lower prices.

“Over the summer, the Chemeketa Press has been very active in supporting the goal of providing low-cost, high-quality course materials to our students,” the school announced in a recent press release.

The effort began with the recreation of four textbooks, to be written, designed and produced by Chemeketa faculty and students. The books were chosen after looking at which books are most needed by students — and which books were most expensive.

The four Chemeketa Press books offered for the 2015-2016 year are “Introduction to Algebra and Geometry,” “Elementary Algebra,” “Freedom & Responsibility: An Anthology for Readers and Writers” and “Art for Everyone,” which cost from $12 to $18 each.

Chemeketa students can expect to save about $97 per year on average, said college spokesman Greg Harris. Multiply that by 1,280 affected students, and the total anticipated yearly savings amount to $124,010.

Laura Mack, art program chair at the Salem campus, was the lead editor for “Art for Everyone.”

She became involved when she found out that students had to pay $200 to get the previously required introductory art textbook.

“I got really mad,” she laughed.

So Mack, 47, pulled her resources and those of other interested faculty and students to get a new textbook going.

Steve Richardson, Chemeketa Press project faculty, already had the project in motion. Mack and other art department members joined forces with Richardson to create a new textbook that would cost only $18.

All photographs of the art in the book that were taken before 1946 are in the public domain, and thus free to reproduce, but the school ran into some complications getting permission to use photographs of more recent art. The team decided to ask local artists if they could use their work instead.

“The challenge turned into such a gift,” Mack said.

The original textbook, upon inspection by art historians, had proved to be inaccurate in many parts, and the addition of works by local artists made the book new and unique to the Pacific Northwest.

When “Art for Everyone” was first seen by board members and school administrators, they were impressed, Mack said.

“They were dumbfounded by how gorgeous the designs (are),” she said.

Chemeketa students participated in the creation of the textbook’s content and design and will be able to include their work on the books in future portfolios.

The books, though produced and formally published in Oregon, are physically printed in Tennessee. “Beta” versions will be used for the first year and will receive student feedback. A first edition will be printed next year, and other schools across the country will be able to purchase them.

A free PDF and electronic copies will be available for purchase when the first edition is released, for students who want to access the book digitally.

The school’s proceeds from sales will be used to produce more textbooks, said Chemeketa Associate Vice President and Chief Information Officer Tim Rogers.

Rogers said the goal is to reduce the costs of textbooks for Chemeketa students to no more than $40 a book.

npate@StatesmanJournal.com, (503) 399-6745, or follow on Twitter @Nataliempate 

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