Textbook costs and accessibility: Could open textbooks play a role?

Costello, Eamon, Brown, Mark, Brunton, James, Bolger, Richard and Soverino, Tiziana (2018) Textbook costs and accessibility: Could open textbooks play a role?


Rising textbook costs have been highlighted as an issue for students in higher education (HE), particularly in North America. Less is known about the costs and forms in which books are available to students in higher education in Europe and specifically in Ireland. This is despite significant moves towards openly licensed books as a potential response via established open access publishing platforms. This research sought to address a gap in the scholarly understanding of textbook usage and the potential of open alternatives in Ireland. We present the results of an analysis of the accessibility, cost and licensing of textbooks in Ireland taking one higher education institution as a case study. We report here on the findings of phases one and two of this study, including the retail prices of over 500 books, the formats they are available in and those that are in the public domain. The next phase of this study involved the design of research instruments to use with staff and students as participants in research. These instruments were designed, with reference to the research literature on Open Education Resources (OER), such as Wiley’s 5 Rs of OER, to examine the current usage and perception of educational textbooks with the overarching aim of determining the relevance of digital open textbooks in the Irish context.

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