Exorbitant Costs Spur Launch of National ‘Textbook Rebellion’

For Immediate Release

BOSTON, Mass., and IRVINGTON, N.Y. – (April 6, 2011) – TextbookRebellion.org, a national campaign to promote alternatives to sky-high priced college textbooks, launched today with a website and tools for individuals and groups to get involved and organize local rebellions on their campuses.

Through an online petition drive, social media and campus events, the Textbook Rebellion aims to raise awareness of the textbook affordability crisis and a growing number of alternatives that relieve students of the perennial problem of spiraling textbook costs. Chief among the new options are open textbooks that are licensed to be free online and affordable in print and digital formats. Other choices range from the e-reader model, textbook rental and loan programs and websites for used books. 

Above: Students surround the Textbook Rebellion larger-than-life characters “TR,” the textbook rebel, and Mr. $200 Textbook.

Founded by the Student PIRGs (Public Interest Research Groups), a national network of non-profit student advocacy groups, and Flat World Knowledge, the largest publisher of free and open college textbooks, the Textbook Rebellion expects to enlist the support of thousands of students and campus associations, as well as parents, faculty, administrators, legislators, and creators of open textbooks and open educational resources. 

“This is an important issue and students and teachers need to get involved,” said Janelle Williams, a sophomore at the City College of New York. “Students who go to school here have to work to pay their tuition. It’s not right that books cost so much.”

A Textbook Rebellion campus tour across New York State and throughout the U.S. is planned for spring and fall. Events held recently drew crowds at Brooklyn College, Columbia University, New York University, the State University of New York at Purchase and King’s College. Urging the students on were giant characters in costume—Textbook Rebel (“TR”), the campaign’s protagonist in yellow tights and a red cape, who seeks fair textbook prices for students—and his nemesis, 10-foot tall Mr. $200 Textbook, a greedy, cigar-chomping mogul epitomizing the exorbitant prices and unsustainable business practices of the traditional textbook industry.

The College Board reports that students are spending an average of $1,137 for textbooks and supplies this academic year. A new financial accounting textbook can cost $150–$200. For students at community colleges, the cost of textbooks and supplies as a percentage of tuition and fees is 72 percent; 26 percent for students attending a four-year public college, according to estimates by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

“For years, a handful of powerful textbook publishers have monopolized the industry and driven up costs four times the rate of inflation,” said Nicole Allen, Textbooks Advocate for the Student PIRGs. “Better options are out there. Between used books, rental programs and long-term alternatives like open textbooks, we have the tools we need to make textbooks affordable for more students.”

“In the midst of rising tuition costs, shrinking education budgets and a struggling economy, the Textbook Rebellion is a way for individual and groups to speak out against skyrocketing textbook prices,” said Eric Frank, president and co-founder of Flat World Knowledge. “Anyone who cares about lowering higher education costs and increasing access for all students is invited to join the Textbook Rebellion.”

For more information or to show your support, visit www.textbookrebellion.org; follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/textbookrebellion and on Twitter www.twitter.com/textbookrebel. Or email us at [email protected].

TextbookRebellion.org is a coalition of students, parents, professors and organizations inspired to take action against the skyrocketing cost of college textbooks and promote affordable alternatives, such as open textbooks that are licensed to be free online and affordable offline.

The Student PIRGs is a national network of non-profit, non-partisan student advocacy groups that work on public interest issues pertaining to the environment, consumer protection and government reform. For the last eight years, the Student PIRGs’ Make Textbooks Affordable campaign has led a national movement against rising textbook prices through research, advocacy and grassroots organizing.

Flat World Knowledge, Inc. is the largest publisher of free and open college textbooks for students worldwide. Committed to making higher education more affordable and accessible, the company provides students with free online access to complete, peer-reviewed textbooks, with options to purchase affordable print and digital formats, including e-books, audio books, PDF downloads and interactive study aids. Flat World’s open license and online editing platform enable professors to modify the content and create the “perfect book” for their course. To date, more than 1,600 professors at over 900 colleges in 44 countries have used Flat World open textbooks. Backed by top venture capital firms, Flat World Knowledge was named along with Apple, Facebook and Google as one of the information industry’s “30 to Watch” in 2011 by Outsell, Inc.

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