Since 2015, Chemeketa Press, a non-profit organization operated by Chemeketa Community College in Oregon, has been printing college-level textbooks for $40 or less. To date, the press has published a total of 33 titles, saving students an estimated $2.5 million from what they would have spent if they had to purchase new textbooks from other publishers. According to Rachel Alexander’s report for the Salem Reporter, Chemeketa is possibly the only academic press based at a community college in the US. All of its textbooks sell for forty dollars or less—considerable savings for students, given that textbooks published by for-profit companies can cost as much as $300 per book.
Managing editor of the Press, Brian Mosher, explained to the Salem Reporter how expensive textbooks contribute to dropouts: “Higher costs per course mean[sic] a student may take fewer classes per quarter, meaning a degree takes longer to finish. Students in college longer are less likely to finish at all.” Providing affordable textbooks offsets other college costs and encourages students to complete their degrees, especially for community college students who often have to balance school with other responsibilities.
The press is staffed by four people. To reduce costs, books are printed on-demand at an online service that ships orders directly to the college bookstore. The publishing staff collaborates with Chemeketa faculty to write books without confusing jargon. Faculty are encouraged to share their understanding of the course and add what they think the course material should include.
The Chemeketa Press is funded by grant money from the college, but the goal is for the Press to be self-sustaining once text sales have risen sufficiently . To do so, the Press must expand its market. In 2018, The Courier, the College’s student-run media group, reported that Chemeketa Press had made a deal with Oxford University Press to publish an affordable art textbook, to be available for course use at campuses across the US. Compared with standard art texts which sell for as much as $114, the Chemeketa Press text costs just $34.
Although the Chemeketa Press has been operating successfully since 2015, but as of September 2019, no corporate news outlets appear to have covered it. The Salem is the first news outlet not associated with the College to report on Chemeketa Press and its mission to make college more accessible by producing low-cost, high-quality textbooks for students.
Source: Rachel Alexander, “Chemeketa Press Aims for Publishing ‘Revolution’ by Creating Textbooks for $40 and Under,” Salem Reporter, August 26, 2019, https://www.salemreporter.com/posts/1202/chemeketa-press-aims-for-publishing-revolution-by-creating-textbooks-for-40-and-under.
Student Researcher: Joey X. Xu (City College of San Francisco)
Faculty Evaluator: Jennifer Levinson (City College of San Francisco)