College textbook publisher drops price on every title

Stefanie Botelho's picture

Rice University-based publisher OpenStax College today announced a distribution partnership with NACSCORP, a subsidiary of the National Association of College Stores (NACS), that will allow the nonprofit publisher to drop prices on all its print textbooks and distribute them to more than 3,000 college stores.

“All our books are free online, but many students prefer a printed copy, and thanks to our partnership with NACS, we plan to do something next year that no major publisher has done for a generation — reduce the price of every print title in our catalog,” said Richard Baraniuk, founder of OpenStax College and the Victor E. Cameron Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rice.

OpenStax College is one of the nation’s fastest-growing college textbook publishers. It launched in 2012 with the goal of making college more affordable by publishing free, high-quality textbooks for 25 of the nation’s most-attended college courses. Based at Rice University, OpenStax College uses philanthropic gifts from major foundations to produce “open education resources” (OER) — free, full-color, peer-reviewed textbooks that have the same look and feel as books that cost $100 or more.

Baraniuk said OpenStax College’s print edition prices are already exceptionally low — about $30-$54. He said the NACS agreement will allow OpenStax College to lower prices by about 2 percent next year. Beyond the per-copy drop in prices, Baraniuk said the NACS agreement will also save students money by reducing how much OpenStax College has to pay for shipping.

The Oberlin, Ohio,-based NACS is a not-for-profit, professional trade association that represents more than 3,000 collegiate and K-12 stores, including stores that are school-owned and operated, private, or managed by bookstore companies. NACS member stores serve nearly all college students while supporting the academic missions of educational institutions. NACS’ members also include higher-education professionals, organizations, associations and more than 1,000 companies that supply goods and services to the college retailing industry. Its subsidiary, NACSCORP, helps educational retailers compete more successfully by providing consistent and reliable wholesale distribution of products and services, including textbooks and other course materials.

“We are committed to providing a range of options to our college store partners, including inexpensive titles from the growing OER market,” said Kurt Schoen, NACSCORP president and chief operating officer. “OpenStax College’s high-quality books stand out in the OER market, and we’re pleased to partner with OpenStax College to lower the cost of print editions of these books and make them available to many more students worldwide.”

OpenStax College’s first seven books have already saved students more than $9 million, been downloaded more than 500,000 times and been adopted by more than 600 high schools, community colleges, four-year colleges and research universities.

“It’s difficult to overstate the benefits that NACSCORP’s international distribution network will bring to us,” said Daniel Williamson, managing director of OpenStax College. “Students and instructors have flocked to our books because they are the right quality and price, but we are a small nonprofit. This agreement will be an enormous aid to us in getting the right amount of print copies to the right campus stores each semester.

“NACSCORP distributes to the vast majority of college campuses across the country and many more outside the U.S., and they are committed to making a college education accessible to as many students possible,” Williamson said. “This deal will make it possible for us to expand our reach but also to lower the prices on our print books at the same time.”

Williamson said the deal is aptly timed, because OpenStax College is in the midst of rolling out its biggest-impact titles to date. Its seventh book, Principles of Economics, which debuted in March, is the first in a string of new titles OpenStax College will publish this year for courses that typically enroll more than a million U.S. students each year.

“We’re planning to debut titles for precalculus, psychology and U.S. history later this year,” Williamson said. “We look forward to working with NACS to widen access to higher education by putting both these and our existing titles into the hands of as many students as possible.”

NACS Chief Executive Officer Brian Cartier said the new partnership fits perfectly into the organization’s objectives.

“As a trade association, NACS is committed to the mission of making sure course materials and all aspects of a higher education are more affordable to students,” Cartier said. “I’m proud to say that this new partnership between NACSCORP and OpenStax College fully supports that mission.”

OpenStax College’s catalog also includes titles for introductory physics, sociology, statistics, anatomy and physiology, and both majors and nonmajors biology. It also plans to publish a title for introductory chemistry this year, and its catalog will eventually cover 25 of the nation’s most-attended college courses.

OpenStax College is made possible by the support of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the 20 Million Minds Foundation, the Maxfield Foundation, the Calvin K. Kanzanjian Foundation and the Leon Lowenstein Foundation.

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