New textbook program tested at Kent State, books now included in tuition

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This past spring, The Kent State board of Trustees approved an Inclusive Access Model for Textbook Purchases which will be commonly known as Flash Books. Students will be provided digital textbooks and course materials for designated courses at a price that will be included in their tuition and course fees.

The program is designed to decrease the price of student’s textbooks and course materials by 30%-70% in comparison to the 2017 school year prices. However, Jamie Sopko, Campus Book and Supply manager, feels as though this has the potential to harm students’ learning, especially those who aren’t digitally savvy.

“Some people feel like they have to have that paperback in their hands to be able to understand it. They like to highlight it, like to read, they like to have that physical copy in their hands.”

Campus Book and Supply has been a staple of Kent State since 2002. Taken by Andrea Gump on September 8th, 2018.

As of now, students are given an “opt-out” option where they are able to choose not to receive digital versions of the textbooks for the selected classes. Sopko believes this is beneficial because students will have the ability to return the book if necessary.

“We get a lot of students who bring textbooks back for a lot of reasons,” says Sopko, “ one of the main ones being that their professors didn’t actually use the book.”

Kent State is one of about 100 universities that has partnered with Barnes & Noble College for digital textbooks this fall. Kent State is currently testing the program with 6 courses including: 14 sections of Human Nutrition, 11 sections of Human Growth and Development, 6 sections of Intuitive Calculus, 3 sections of Exploring Modular Math, 14 sections of Introduction to Statistics and 7 sections of Physical Geography. However, many students are apprehensive of the soft launch the program had at the beginning of the fall semester.

Barnes and Noble worker and student Jena Pinchek is apprehensive about the program and fears she won’t be able to utilize a more affordable option if the new program becomes implemented university wide.

“I definitely look at my options first,” says Hayes, “I would look at prices but if Kent state made me I would use it.”

However, Pincheck also believes the program could be beneficial. “I think it could be good if it opens up the different price range of things,” says Pincheck, “I won’t know until I try it myself.”

According to a statement from Kristin Anderson, the Director of External Media Relations, “Flash Books aligns with House Bill 49, which encourages universities to take steps to reduce the costs students pay for textbooks.”

The Ohio Legislative Service Commission bill analysis shows House Bill 49, requires state institutions of higher education to provide textbooks as a mandatory service to undergraduate students for the 2018-2019 academic year. Each institution may charge a textbook fee of up to $300 for a full year for each full-time student.

Madison Hayes, student and Kent State University bookstore employee of four years is concerned about the possibility of students being forced to pay for books at the university’s bookstore, a partner with Barnes and Noble.

“It might be easier for students because you won’t have to go searching for your books but I think overall it’d be more expensive for other students,” says Hayes, “because you’d have to buy your books through the campus bookstore that generally is more expensive than other bookstores.”

Although Sopko believes the new program is good for students in textbook-heavy fields, she also fears, in some cases, students may be herded into buying a more expensive book for the sake of the program.

“I think it makes sense in classes where you have to use an access code to do your homework or quizzes,” says Sopko,“I don’t think it makes a lot of sense for the English department where you can go to Last Exit books and get your paperbacks for two bucks.”

When asked about the new Flash Books program, the Kent State University bookstore denied comments.

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