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Austin Peay's First Day eBooks pilot program to reduce cost of textbooks

ebooks(Posted July 23, 2019)

Here’s a fun question to ask your college professor friends: “How would you feel if all your students showed up on the first day of class with their books?” Paul Nicodemus, Austin Peay State University (APSU) professor of psychological science and counseling, has an answer.

 “I wouldn’t have to worry anymore,” he said. “I never have developed ulcers, but I’m surprised by that because I always have students that don’t have the right textbook.”

During his career, Nicodemus has observed several reasons why students either don’t have a book or why they bought the wrong book. Campus bookstores sometimes run out of required texts, and when students order a book online, they might accidentally pick the wrong edition. In addition, students frequently wait until the start of class to check with their professors to see if the text is required. Data collected by Austin Peay’s bookstore reveals nearly 50 percent of students do not have their course materials on the first day of class.

And then there’s the cost. It’s long been known that life offers three absolutes – death, taxes and expensive college textbooks.

 The program drives down the cost of course materials and ensures students will have the right text for their class.

This summer, Austin Peay State University is piloting a program to help resolve the age-old textbook dilemma, in partnership with Barnes & Noble College, operator of APSU campus bookstore. Students and professors in 10 summer courses are participating in the Barnes & Noble College First Day™ program, which seamlessly delivers low-cost eBooks to a class’s online shell when a student registers for that class. The eBook is added to the student’s tuition, and they have instant access to the correct text on the first day of class.

“It’s simple reality for many students that they cannot afford their textbooks, and as a consequence these students must choose between buying the necessities of life or purchasing a very expensive textbook that often can be in excess of $200,” Dr. Chad Brooks, APSU associate provost for research and dean of the College of Graduate Studies, said.

The First Day program drives down the cost of course materials, and ensures students will have the right text for their class. This allows them to fully participate from day one and succeed in their course work. Students do have the option to opt out of the First Day program, but Brooks said those participating in this summer’s pilot program will collectively save more than $10,000, with estimated savings of more than $120,000 for the fall semester. Next year, he hopes to make that number grow by expanding the program to the entire campus.

 “As information dissemination becomes more freely available, open source free digital textbooks are becoming increasingly available and approaching the high standard of much more expensive textbooks,” Brooks said.

The University developed the pilot program earlier this year, after Dr. Rex Gandy, APSU provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, became concerned about the exorbitant costs of some college text books. Gandy created a textbook affordability taskforce, which met with both faculty and nationally recognized book vendors and worked with the campus bookstore. The result of that committee’s work led to this summer’s First Day eBooks program.

“We are very excited to bring this program to APSU,” Shonte Cadwallader, APSU bookstore manager, said. “The First Day program will help drive affordability and accessibility, ensuring students are ready to begin learning on the first day of class. We look forward to working with the University to support the success of APSU students.”

“I really like that they got this finally set up,” Nicodemus said. “This is a game-changer. I think you’re going to see more of this.”

For information on Austin Peay State University’s First Day eBooks program, contact Brooks at brooksc@apsu.edu.

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