In Fall 2014, faculty and administrators at Chemeketa got together and decided it was time to do something about the high cost of textbooks. Much of the work that followed came in the form of replacing commercial textbooks with existing open-source textbooks or other online resources.
Writing professor Steve Richardson had published an affordable writing textbook using a print-on-demand publishing system, and in early 2015, he proposed that the college could use the same system to help faculty publish their own affordable textbooks. Julie Huckestein, Chemeketa’s president, asked Richardson to test his ideas out. She wanted the books to be affordable, but she also wanted to make sure they were effective books that served students well.
Over the spring and summer of 2015, Richardson worked with faculty from math, art, academic development, and English on four pilot books. By fall 2015, four new books were on sale in the Chemeketa Bookstore. That winter, a three-volume set of US History books were added. In 2015-16, Chemeketa Press sold about 1500 copies of these pilot books. This saved Chemeketa students more than $150,000 over the price of commercial textbooks. Sales of these books brought in about $18,000 in revenue for the Press.
Encouraged by early results, the college made Chemeketa Press a special project within the college’s Support Services Division. Associate Vice-President Tim Rogers provided oversight for the endeavor as its publisher. Richardson became the managing editor, and Brian Mosher, another writing professor, became production editor.
To develop and publish textbooks without the extensive infrastructure of a commercial publishing house, Chemeketa Press did things differently in two ways. First, it adapted a software development model that puts its products into use as “development editions” as soon as they are fully functional. This model requires fewer up-front resources, but more importantly, it draws help from its users — in this case, teaching faculty and students — to improve the product with feedback about errors and suggestions for how to make it more effective. Second, the Press used print-on-demand publishing to keep costs low, even for short print runs of 10 or 20 books. This also allowed the Press to easily update books as corrections came in, sometimes with revised versions released quarter by quarter.
Relying on these innovations, Chemeketa Press continued to explore different types of textbook development, from direct reprints of openly licensed books to original works by groups of faculty. In 2016-17, it revised and completed the first set of books and added fourteen new titles, including several student workbooks. These books saved students about $450,000 over the cost of new commercial textbooks. The sale of these books brought about $100,000 in revenue to the Press.
In 2017-18, the Press continued to revise existing titles and add new titles to its catalog. It also added a design editor, Ronald Cox IV, and an instructional editor, Stephanie Lenox, to oversee manuscript development and help integrate the Press more directly into the teaching mission of the college. The catalog grew to twenty-nine books that saved students about $900,000 and brought in $180,000 in revenue.
We are now beginning to share our work with others. Many finished textbooks are now available for review and adoption outside Chemeketa. Faculty from outside Chemeketa can also participate in several new textbook development projects as reviewers and early adopters. We are also working with two national publishers to develop new and custom editions of current texts and then distribute them nationally.
If you would like to support this mission, one option is to make a donation through the Chemeketa Community College Foundation at their secure giving site. Under “Fund Designation” at their site, select Chemeketa Press Textbook Fund to make your donation to us. Thank you for helping us publish affordable and effective textbooks.