[Athen] [ATHEN] Battling pricy textbooks with open-source texts, social media

John Gardner john.gardner at orst.edu
Wed Aug 20 09:09:55 PDT 2008

I appreciate Ron's point of view, particularly the comment about
institutions moving to a new model. However I think that Ron has
overestimated the influence of money on people who write texts. There are
probably as many people who write texts for fun as there are who write them
for profit. This is more so for upper level texts than introductory ones,
because the sales potential for books decreases as the subject matter
becomes more specialized. Yet these tend to be the most expensive, because
the publishers have to make money on a limited sale. The authors are
invariably university faculty members who write books as part of their
professional research and service. So they are paid by the university to
write these books and don't need to sell them to eat.

I an an honorary author on a physics monograph because I translated it from
German. That book sells well in Germany at 20 Euros but the English Wiley
version hasn't even sold its initial printing of something like a couple
hundred copies, because it costs several hundred dollars. The authors make
very little money and would be more than happy to give it away for free if
they had a high visibility way to distribute it. I know many other authors
who would do the same.

The big caveat here is that high visibility distribution. Free is good, but
there's no money to pay for advertising. Maybe a model like Amazon's and
O'Reilly's that permit authors to distribute directly without a publisher in
between might fill that need. This can work for proprietary as well as open
source works. I am hopeful, but only time will tell.


-----Original Message-----
From: athen-bounces at athenpro.org [mailto:athen-bounces at athenpro.org] On
Behalf Of Kelmer, Susan M.
Sent: Wednesday, August 20, 2008 6:53 AM
To: Access Technologists in Higher Education Network
Subject: Re: [Athen] [ATHEN] Battling pricy textbooks with open-source
texts,social media

I have a completely different take on this than Ron. Open Source WORKS and
it also makes money. There are plenty of bands and authors that would not
be known at all today if they didn't start out by giving away their work for
free. Surprisingly, the old business model of "nothing free" doesn't work
these days, and "free" is working AND earning money.
Doesn't make sense with the traditional economics we all learned in school,
but in the actual working, people ARE making money and making it well after
becoming recognized by publishing for free.

It does mean a corporate shift for many, and plenty of businesses still
haven't figured out that open source/free does work, and does make money.
The music industry is the most steadfast in following the old ways and the
old economics, but it hasn't stopped open source, and it won't.

Susan Kelmer
Adaptive Technology Specialist/
Lab Coordinator, Campus Labs and Classrooms St. Louis Community College -

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