About the Project

THE PROBLEM:

According to a 2009 article in the New York Times, the typical college student spends up to $1,100 a year on textbooks.  There are three factors that drive up these prices.  First, since college students are a captive market, manufacturers charge more to print textbooks than trade books.  Second, the publisher’s markup is usually 30% to 40% before they hit the shelves in bookstores.  Third, publishers make no money from the used book trade so they usually release new editions every two years in order to reestablish their place in the market and antiquate any used stock in circulation.  On average, the cost of textbooks has increased by 6% each year, outpacing both inflation and tuition increases. Many students go online to find cheaper books but the savings tend not to be substantial because used book traders have become skilled in knowing what the market will bear.

An introductory theatre course can be a big part of a student’s semester textbook bill.  At the time of this writing, the least expensive introductory theatre textbook by a major publisher is $76 and the most expensive tops out at $123.  Since most do not include plays, the total cost for the course increases by another $40 to $50.  In addition, when you examine the periodic new editions of these works, the revisions seem minimal and appear to be driven by profit margins rather than recent changes in the theatrical landscape or discoveries in theatre history.  This is not to say that some of these books do not contain interesting or provocative content.  They simply cost too much for what they provide.

THE SOLUTION:

With the support of the University of Florida College of Fine Arts and the University Press of Florida, I am currently working with other professors to produce a scholarly, peer-reviewed, professionally-edited open source textbook that can be used for introductory theatre courses.  Once completed, the book will be available for free under a Creative Commons License which credits the original authors when changes or inserts are made and does not allow for commercial profit.  Once available, students would have a variety of options — access the text online, purchase a paperback copy from the University Press of Florida, print the chapters themselves, or have a bound book created for as little as $15 through online services.

This textbook will be similar to current ones in that chapters would cover theatrical process (playwriting, acting, directing, and design) and special topics (genres, musical theatre, world and multicultural theatre). However, this “modular” open source version will allow educators to rearrange, add or subtract text to suit the needs of their course providing a degree of flexibility not found in the old publishing model.  In addition to making a significant impact on this corner of the publishing world, this work could provide some relief to economically disadvantaged students who too often have to bear the brunt of inflated textbook prices.

Please provide any thoughts you have about this initiative.

6 Responses to About the Project

  1. Maria Beach says:

    I was on the Intro. Textbook roundtable with you at ATHE this past summer and was intrigued by your new model. When do you anticipate that the book will be available?

    • Hi Maria:

      I should have finished chapters in the spring and after the editing and layout process, I see it being available fall of next year. However, those order deadlines in the spring come very early so I don’t know how many inroads we’ll make.

      Best, Charlie

  2. Maria Beach says:

    Thanks, Charlie.
    Yes, I have to submit my book order in January for August classes–a very early deadline. I guess I will order another book for Fall 2012 and look at your book as an option for the future. Best wishes on the project,
    Maria

  3. David Brooks says:

    Charlie,
    I applaud you for this project. I am currently taking a course in Open Education and your project is a great example of new ways to crreate texts. I’m curious about how you went about connecting with authors. And how did you decide which authors to accept? Good luck with the project!

  4. I am a high school theater teacher. I would love to help make this happen in any way that I can. I would be happy to a reviewer or help make graphics for your textbook. I also have the ability to create some interactive features and high quality videos.

    Why limit it to a textbook when we can create a truly interactive learning experience.

  5. I love this! if there is anyway I can contribute, please let me know. I am an assistant professor at Mercer Universoty in Georgia, design and technology. I am also in the process of researching theatre textbook prices across the country for fall 2016 (hoping to continue this research moving forward in my career).
    Thanks

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