The University of Minnesota hopes to lighten the load for students by finding textbooks that are less expensive or -- better yet -- free.
"We were looking for options to make higher education more affordable and course materials just seem to be a sweet spot," said Dave Ernst, director of academic and information technology in the College of Education and Human Development.
The alternative the college found to books that can cost about $200 each are "open textbooks." The free or low-cost volumes are available online and in print and are economical because publishers release usage rights, allowing anyone to read, distribute and adapt the books to fit their curriculum, said Nicole Allen, an affordable-textbook advocate at Student PIRGs, a national research group.
In April, the university launched Open Academics, a catalog that gives professors at the U a list of "quality" open textbooks that they can review and use.