Open Textbook pioneer saves students thousands in textbook costs

Remember the days of trudging across campus, lugging a fifty pound backpack crammed with an assortment of enormous (and expensive) textbooks? For 60 lucky Kwantlen Polytechnic University students, those backpacks are a little lighter while their wallets are substantially fatter thanks to the BCcampus Open Textbook project and intrepid physics professor, Dr. Takashi Sato.

Dr. Takashi Sato
Dr. Takashi Sato

Last year, Dr. Sato was approached by BCcampus about the project. When he realized he could swap out a ninth edition, 1000 page, $200 physics textbook with a free, openly licensed, digital tome available in e-pub and pdf versions, Sato quickly made the decision to participate.

“The old book has been around forever, but even I’m surprised by how much it costs. As an instructor, I’m just not comfortable with a student spending that kind of money for a book,” says Sato. “I’d been looking at electronic college physics books as well as noticing how many students download books onto e-readers and other devices. BCcampus was instrumental in helping me to make a firm decision about adopting an open textbook – a decision that’s saved my students over $11,000 in textbook costs.”

Currently in the phase two –adaptation stage of a three phase process, the Open Textbook project was initially announced just over a year ago as Canada’s first official open textbook endeavor. Sato was intrigued to discover that the open licensing of open textbooks allows faculty to adapt any portion of a textbook without requiring students to purchase an entire volume.

“I’ve been able to create a condensed version of applicable information and entirely bypass chapters that aren’t relevant at this time,” says Sato. “Given that this is a first edition textbook, there are still some bugs to be worked out. However, I’m not seeing a downside. So far, I love the concept and my students are providing a great deal of positive feedback about cost savings, quality, and convenience.”

Clint Lalonde, BCcampus client services manager, has been in close contact with Sato about the project, calling the physics professor a pioneer in the open textbook movement in British Columbia.

“Dr. Sato is one of the very first adoptees of an open textbook within a public post secondary institution in this province. We are grateful for his enthusiasm, his generosity with his time and his willingness to try something new and unique,” says Lalonde. “Early open textbooks adoptees like Dr. Sato are forging the path for other educators, providing those who might be uncertain with some case studies based on real world experiences.”

For his part, Dr. Sato is committed to encouraging his Kwantlen colleagues to follow his lead into previously uncharted territory.

“Change can be tough, but it’s also fun,” he says. “I’ve been telling other instructors about my success with the open textbook and they’ve definitely expressed interest in what I’m doing. Who knows, maybe I’ll convince some of my colleagues to hop on board the open textbook movement!”