Physics professor proposes free online textbook


Concerns about textbook costs are on the rise among college students nationwide. Each semester begins with finding which textbooks are required, price-comparison and the daunting decision of whether to rent or buy.

Michael Vera, associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at The University of Southern Mississippi, created a proposal called “Electronic Resources for Introductory Physics” to ease the burden for students. The idea behind the proposal is to help encourage the use of free online texts.

“Dr. Vera has piloted the use of an open, free, online text for our algebra- and trigonometry-based general physics course that is available through the OpenStax College at Rice University,” said Chris Winstead, professor and chair for the Department of Physics and Astronomy. “However, no such resource is available for our calculus-based course sequence.”

Vera said the material covered in the introductory physics course hasn’t changed in decades. Textbook companies are not only producing new editions but spiking the price at $200 or more in many instances.

Whether electronic books are as good as physical books depends on how each student learns; however, there are pros and cons to weigh.

“Not every subject would be able to transition to this free online text due to updates to certain subjects, such as [introductory biology courses],” Vera said. “Introductory physics is all about can you systematically solve a problem, carefully read it, figure out what you got and what you want to execute it.”

“Dr. Vera could reduce student costs for many years to come and provide an easily modified platform for improvements that actually impact students learning,” Winstead said.