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Revolutionary textbook saves students thousands

By Alex Christodoulou

The publishing landscape is always changing. If it isn’t the eBook, it’s Amazon and the self-publishing boom. Once upon a time, the introduction of paperbacks made people sit up and take notice by putting books in people’s hands at a fraction of the previous cost.

The cover of Australian Politics and Policy textbook showing the title and the outline of the roof of Parliament House superimposed on a brick wall.

But when you think of game-changers in the publishing industry, I’ll wager a textbook on Australian politics and policy doesn’t immediately spring to mind.

What makes this open access textbook so revolutionary is that it can be customised to fit the curriculum.

That’s right. The same book, but different contents. Are you keeping up?

The brainchild of members of the association of politics lecturers led by Dr Peter Chen, the Australian Politics and Policy open access textbook allows subject coordinators to format the content to their specific needs and desires. To do this, lecturers can select what content they want included in their digital version of the textbook to be used in their classes, from a comprehensive list of 40+ chapters, most of which come in junior or senior versions.

Importantly, these textbooks are provided open access. This means that the entire book is free to read and/or download anywhere in the world, at any time – provided you’ve got a half-decent internet connection that is.

As if all that wasn’t enough, the plan is for 10 percent of the book’s content to be updated annually, so the material never runs the risk of falling behind the times.
As you can imagine, this textbook is the ideal resource for university lecturers and students. Not only can the content be customised for students in their junior or senior years of university, but specific subject matters can be included or eschewed depending on the focus of the particular area of study. On top of that, instructors who adopt the textbook are also provided with PowerPoint slides and revision material for each chapter they include in their personalised version of Australian Politics and Policy.

This is all music to the ears of students, who for years have been forced to fork out $50 per student for a politics textbook that often contains pages of outdated or unsuitable content.

Statistics on the adoption of the customised textbook show that in the twelve-month period from October 2019 to September 2020 1,451 people have had access to a bespoke version of Australian Politics and Policy. Students have made up the bulk of this figure, collectively saving tens of thousands of dollars, while at the same time having had access to the most relevant textbook on politics and policy that this country has to offer.

But that doesn’t mean that the textbook only has an Australian appeal. In fact, the statistics tell us that readers from the USA, China, India, Germany and the Netherlands have accessed Australian Politics and Policy.

While the customisability of the textbook is one of its most exciting features, it also functions just as well as a regular open access learning resource. The stats show us that the senior edition has been the most popular, having been read online almost 12,000 times from Oct 2019–Sep 2020.

The height of this popularity came in the three-month period from January to March 2020, when the online textbook welcomed 3,393 readers to its senior chapters, who spent an average of 20 minutes per visit.

Whether it’s being consumed in its existing format, or being customised to the requirements of its audience, there’s no doubting the value of Australian Politics and Policy. With over a hundred academics and scholars contributing their knowledge and insight, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

But what really makes this textbook so revolutionary is the way it can be so easily adapted to the curriculum needs. And in a generation where students are often told that they need to be flexible and malleable to survive in the current marketplace, it seems only fair that their textbook does the same.

Alex Christodoulou is a word-obsessed sportswriter who currently specialises in horse racing. He will soon complete the Master of Publishing at Sydney University, and is eager to see more diverse voices in Australian print.