A new textbook initiative spearheaded by faculty at University of Michigan, UC-Berkeley, and The University of Utah aims to ease the financial burden of college students in engineering courses by offering newly-published books for free online, and “at cost” in hard cover.
The financial savings for students in 2018-2019 is expected to eclipse $2.5M with just these three textbooks (including book resales). On the flip side, the individual faculty are losing approximately $100K in royalties.
The goal is to have about 25,000 students taking advantage of the free textbooks this year.
“We are starting with textbooks in electrical engineering,” said Fawwaz Ulaby, Emmett Leith Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Michigan. “But I am hoping the initiative spreads to other disciplines.”
Studies have shown that the majority of college students are opting out of buying textbooks because they are simply too expensive. If they do buy them, many students will choose to sell them to recoup some of the money. Publishers, seeing this fall in sales, will now let students “rent” a PDF version of their textbook for as much as $100, and businesses have materialized that rent textbooks. Either way – students are working harder to figure out how to pay for their books, and many are losing the benefit that comes from retaining these valuable resources.
The first three textbooks to be offered under this textbook initiative were written by four authors with extensive experience in academic publishing; their books are currently used at over 100 U.S. universities. Each book also has a publicly available companion website with tools to help the student learn the subject matter.
The three textbooks: Circuit Analysis and Design by Ulaby, Michel M. Maharbiz, Cynthia M. Furse; Signals & Systems: Theory and Applications by Ulaby, Andrew E. Yagle; and Image Processing for Engineers by Yagle and Ulaby, cover as many as five undergraduate courses in electrical engineering.
In an effort to expand the number of textbooks available under this initiative, Ulaby has offered to act as editor for new titles. He has already published nine textbooks, including the highly successful Fundamentals of Applied Electromagnetics, now in its seventh edition, and is a recipient of the IEEE James H. Mulligan Education Medal. Ulaby is well-known for being among the most popular teachers at Michigan, even in introductory courses, and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering.
The free textbooks will be available starting July 1, 2018 by Michigan Publishing, which is managing the program. Multisim and Labview software associated with two of the courses can be purchased at a nominal fee of $20. Students who prefer a hard cover version can purchase their textbooks for $60-$75, an incredible deal for these books that range from 450 to 798 pages.