Faculty Profile: Charles Lowe
As an assistant professor in Grand Valley’s Department of Writing, Charles Lowe had grown weary of seeing his students trek to the University Bookstore at the beginning of each semester and spend hundreds of dollars on writing textbooks. Luckily for students at Grand Valley and across the country, his disillusionment manifested itself in an online peer-reviewed book series, Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing, which Lowe conceptualized, co-edits, and hopes will change the way textbooks are distributed in the future.
Each volume in the series contains essays about writing by professors for students and is available for download under a Creative Commons license at http://writingspaces.org. That means there is no cost to the students. The goal of the series is to build a library of quality, open textbooks for writing classrooms as an alternative to costly textbooks.
According to Lowe, the publishing of college textbooks is a billion dollar industry in which much of the production cost is for new print editions every few years. By making textbooks, such as Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing,
available online through Creative Commons licenses or open practices, Lowe believes it is possible to not only save students’ money, but conceivably generate funding for schools as well. For example, he noted, if students spent less money on textbooks, schools could raise tuition by less than what the students save and have excess dollars to invest in other, more permanent resources for learning.
But Lowe hasn’t stopped there. Plans are in the works to duplicate Writing Spaces in the University Libraries’ ScholarWorks@GVSU Institutional repository. According to Lowe, not only does this make the resources available through a Grand Valley website, but also provides assurance that they’ll be there for the long term. “It’s good to have these materials also available to the library as an institutional repository so if anything happens to Writing Spaces these materials are still there for use,” said Lowe. “GVSU teachers and students will always have access to these resources.”