Designing a More Accessible Textbook Business Model

HCDE Capstone research project exploring academic access to information

From my executive summary at:

The purpose of this project was to understand the foundations and limitations of academic access to information. The textbook industry has existed for centuries to establish verified information through a costly review process. In fact, prices have become so high that 65% of surveyed students “said that they had decided against buying a textbook because it was too expensive.” Yet, “94% of them were concerned that doing so would hurt their grade in a course.” [1]

In this project, I present the reasons behind the high cost of textbooks and develop a solution framework through the User Centered Design process. The introduction of eBooks, piracy, and laptops in college classrooms has provided an opportunity to design a more accessible textbook business-model. From interviews with students, faculty and college bookstore administrators, I formed user-centered recommendations for designers working on this problem.

[1] Fixing the Broken Textbook Market: How Students Respond to High Textbook Costs and Demand Alternatives’, U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund & The Student PIRG, pp. 11-12, 2015.

What is a “Capstone”?

From the page:

HCDE offers Capstone classes at both the BS and MS level to students as a culminating experience that synthesizes materials learned across all courses within their degree programs. We welcome HCDE’s Corporate Affiliates who joined at the Strategic Partner level to sponsor student project ideas as part of their membership with the Corporate Affiliates Program (CAP),

Project Guidelines

Capstone Project topics should be broad enough for students to spend an entire quarter on them (plus a planning quarter), and they should touch on at least two components of the human-centered design process: user research, ideation, prototyping, implementation, and evaluation. Projects can be research-oriented, have a design focus, center on evaluation and testing, or be tailored to the team’s interests.

During the months of January-March, I spent the quarter planning out my capstone project. At the end of the quarter, I generated a final document that detailed the goals and timeline for the months of March-June:

Revised project proposal

View the document

I chose to conduct this research to push forward the conversation concerning systematic issues in access to information as well as support a more open model of peer-review. I have gained knowledge from personal experience, internet sources and academic writings – yet the methods of access for each of these resources has varied throughout my life. I believe that information should be set free from unnecessary constraints, but this won’t be done overnight. Instead, we must change the way we view sources of knowledge to become better learners, teachers and creators of verifiable information.

See the entire project at:

Poster presentation embedded below:


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