School of Arts and Humanities News

History Professor Challenges High Textbook Prices with Online Option


Dr. Ben Wright

Dr. Ben Wright

As the costs of college textbooks increase, a UT Dallas professor is offering an alternative for students — a free, online college textbook that he and a collaborator have developed.

Dr. Ben Wright, assistant professor of history in the School of Arts and Humanities, is co-editor of The American Yawp, a free online, collaborative, open American history textbook designed for college-level history courses.

The College Board estimates that the average student in the United States spends approximately $1,200 a year on books and supplies. A report from Student Public Interest Research Groups said the costs of a college textbook increased by 73 percent from 2006 to 2016. The report also showed that 65 percent of students at 150 campuses in the U.S. have opted not to buy a book because it was too costly; of those students, 94 percent were concerned their grades would suffer because of it.

The American Yawp, launched in beta form in 2015, provides a survey of U.S. history. Wright and Dr. Joseph Locke, assistant professor at the University of Houston-Victoria, provided the basic framework for the chapters then sought historians to contribute to the book. Some 300 scholars provided content, with nearly 100 others contributing editing or digital content. Wright and Locke remain editors of the project.

The next iteration of The American Yawp occurs in August, when a print edition is being released by Stanford University Press. Wright said the price will be $24.95, a fraction of the $153 students typically spend per class on materials according to a recent study by the United States Public Interest Research Group.

Wright said that The American Yawp is a labor of love. Neither he nor Locke, nor any other contributor, receive any royalty or payment.

Read the entire story on the UT Dallas News Center.