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Cheaper digital content with Course Materials Initiative

A team of four individuals came before the SGA Senate on Monday, October 12, to present an initiative that has been in the making for years.

The initiative’s primary purpose is to make digital textbooks cheaper for students. In an educational era that is becoming increasingly centered around electronic resources as opposed to paper, textbook publishers have the option to exploit this trend.

Due to the fact that paper textbooks can be reused, publishers historically haven’t been able to hike prices up too much for newly printed books. However, because E-books and access codes are a one to one sale and cannot be reused, publishers can charge what they want due to the absence of secondary options.

The proposed initiative is aimed at combatting this relevant financial problem, and has three main goals centrifugal to that primary concern. Firstly, it is to “provide students as a whole with more affordable course materials.” Secondly, it hopes to “enhance the students’ experience with course materials available via Blackboard on a common digital platform.” Lastly, it wants to “position UMBC to be ahead of the curve with digital content.”

Among the individuals present at the senate meeting was UMBC’s Senior Associate Vice President for Administrative Services, Terry Cook.

According to Cook, “negotiations were conducted directly with publishers to provide UMBC students with reduced pricing on a common digital platform.” The bargaining power of the university with publishers is that each student enrolled in one of the twelve “Phase 1″ courses, for which UMBC has purchased digital content for, will have the cost of said course material included in tuition.

This allows publishers to have a predictable, stable flow of income, and students to receive course materials at a fixed, competitive price.

Cook elaborates, “students enrolled in the Phase 1 courses will have a course materials charge included on their tuition bill, so these students should not buy these materials from any other source.” This information will be noted when students register for the course.

Access to these online materials will also become easier for students. Cook says, “the digital textbook and any online ancillary materials, such as WebAssign, will be accessed directly via Blackboard.  So, students will be able to access the course materials wherever they are and download the digital textbook to their mobile devices for offline reading.”

Given the positive feedback she and her team have received from the SGA, Cook says, “we are proceeding with Phase 1 of this initiative for the spring 2016 semester.”

She advises student to be on the lookout for more information about the initiative. She says, “the Bookstore will publicize this initiative via posters, inet promotions, publications, YouTube, the Bookstore website, orientation handouts and emails sent directly to the students as they enroll in these classes.”

When asked if he was worried about the influx of technology in the classroom having a negative effect on textbook sales, director of the UMBC Bookstore Bob Somers said, “there will be little change, if any, to the Bookstore’s revenues.” Somers also believes the initiative has the opportunity to grow. He believes that the program has potential to be “expandable to other courses in future semesters.”