UNC Press to Offer Publishing Services for Professors’ DIY Textbooks

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As interest in open educational resources grows, university presses may find a new role: providing services to professors who want to create and post online their own materials that they can assign instead of adopting a pricey textbook. One example is at the University of North Carolina Press, which…

As interest in open educational resources grows, university presses may find a new role: providing services to professors who want to create and post online their own materials that they can assign instead of adopting a pricy textbook.

One example is at the University of North Carolina Press, which recently set up an Office of Scholarly Publishing Services that will offer copy editing, design layout, distribution, and seed money for professors making open educational resources.

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The office will be something like a resource center for faculty members, whether they publish with the university press or elsewhere.

"It’s challenging us to think of the role as a publisher in the 21st century," says John Sherer, the press’s director.

He adds that in a declining marketplace for humanities monographs, the university press is "soul searching" for a way to diversify its funding sources. The new office will offer the services for an upfront fee, as opposed to the press’s traditional revenue-recovery model, which covers costs from the proceeds of the sale of books and journals. "We won’t stop publishing monographs and journals," he adds, "but we will serve a broader cross section of the system."

John McLeod is the office’s new director. Over the last several months, he has traveled to nearly every campus in the UNC system to raise awareness that the press is now available for services beyond publishing. He said prices are negotiated on a case-by-case basis, but at scale with industry standards.

Before Mr. McLeod’s visit, universities like UNC-Greensboro had little to do with the university press, which is located in Chapel Hill. "We just bought their books," says Beth R. Bernhardt, assistant dean for collection management and scholarly communications at Greensboro’s libraries.

She sees the press’s new role as an opportunity for professors to seek advice on various materials they may have kept tucked away but would like to publish online or digitize. She also sees it as a way to collaborate on open educational resources, which she says is a growing interest on the campus. Last year the provost and the library supplied a total of $10,000 in grants to support 10 professors seeking to create open educational resources to replace their textbooks.

"If a professor comes to me and wants their book to be freely available but doesn’t have the infrastructure, I can say, ‘Hey John, can you advise this person?’" Ms. Bernhardt says. "It’s another tool in my tool chest."

Campuses across the state are working on open-educational-resource projects in an effort to keep costs down for students, says Mr. McLeod. "Professors hear all the time," he says, "that students won’t be able to afford the textbooks they are using."

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