Publishing companies are teaming up with professors at Ohio State to provide students with free digital textbooks for the remainder of the spring semester. Credit: Lantern File Photo

Textbooks left behind in Columbus may not need to be retrieved as soon as expected thanks to a new partnership between textbook publishers and Ohio State.

Publishing companies are teaming up with professors at Ohio State to provide students with free digital textbooks for the remainder of the spring semester, and thousands of titles across large and small publishers are available now, Ashley Miller, associate director of affordability and access for the Office of Distance Education and eLearning, said. 

Because the opportunity for free textbooks was implemented as an emergency measure in response to the various changes made this semester, Miller said it will end after the academic year.

The idea was brought to Miller’s attention by Bethany Barker, a senior lecturer in the School of Communication, after Ohio State’s initial announcement that the university would be closed until March 30 due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Miller said she and Barker were worried that many students who couldn’t return to campus after spring break wouldn’t be able to retrieve their textbooks.

Ohio State moved the rest of the semester to online classes beginning March 12, but the publishers are still willing to move forward with providing textbooks for free, Miller said.

Ashley Miller, associate director of affordability and access, works on reaching out to publishing companies to get free digital textbooks available for students. Credit: Courtesy of Ashley Miller

Miller said she has received about 90 request forms from faculty, but feels that if more people knew about the opportunity, there would be more demand. The rushed development has prevented Miller from getting the word out to students, she said.

“The problem is, we were trying to do everything so fast,” Miller said. 

Publishing companies such as McGraw-Hill, Cengage and Norton are among those that have agreed to participate, and Miller said she is still reaching out to other companies. 

Michael Shiflet, digital publishing coordinator for affordability and access, said the office is focusing on efficiency.

“Our priority is just the speed of delivery and minimizing the turnaround from the time the request comes in to when we can provide a solution to the issue,” Shiflet said. 

Professors are responsible for providing students with information on accessing the textbooks, and students can do so in multiple ways, including through CarmenBooks, Miller said. 

Students may also be given access codes to books through the publishers’ websites or a third-party vendor website, Miller said. 

Shiflet said this situation can be a learning experience for professors who have never used digital textbooks to start implementing it in the future. 

“They can embrace this as a [money] saving initiative moving forward and not assign print books and maybe we can get some faculty to start thinking,” Shiflet said. 

For more information on how to receive digital textbooks for free, Miller said students should reach out to their professors or fill out the online survey from affordability and access.