The $5 Textbook

by david on August 26, 2011

We went through lots of pain and suffering last year trying to find the “right way” to print open textbooks – the way that makes them super affordable. We printed with different vendors, printed books whole and in sections, bought and stuffed three ring binders and tried paperback print on demand, etc. Some of these approaches were more expensive than traditional textbooks, as we explain in our upcoming article. But we also discovered the “killer app” – a process for localizing textbooks to meet local student needs and print them at the super low cost we were looking for.

How well does it work? Here’s the receipt from this year’s textbook purchase:

When you divide the total purchase price ($14,400 including shipping) by the total number of high school science textbooks we purchased (2690), you will discover that the average printing + shipping cost for one of our textbooks this year is:


Heck yea! This is what we’ve been looking for. Localized books, printed at scale, at ridiculously affordable prices, just as our online Open Textbook Cost Calculator predicted. Oh, and by the way, they’re not just less expensive – they also enable new pedagogies.

Effectiveness data will be forthcoming soon – how much science do you think the kids using $5 textbooks learn compared to kids whose schools adopt $100+ textbooks?

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