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Open Textbook Authorship Case Study

In January 2011, Charlie Mitchell, Professor of Theatre at University of Florida, decided to contribute to the open textbook community by writing and editing an open textbook on theatre practice. He was frustrated that his students were paying $115 for a textbook, in addition to the cost of the plays they had to buy, that was not really an adequate text for the course. As he put it, acting has not changed much in the last 150 years, and he was displeased that his students would have to pay for what had been common knowledge for so long.

Prior to writing, Dr. Mitchell researched open textbooks and shared his findings with his theatre colleagues. These discussions generated enough interest among other theatre faculty that they expressed a desire in taking part in the task of writing chapters of the text. Because he had concerns about digital scholarship being credited by his institution for promotion and tenure, he was interested in exploring a partnership with the University Press of Florida, the imprimatur of which might be influential. After speaking with Open Textbook Project staff, it was suggested that his book might be one that could be developed with the support of Orange Grove Texts Plus (OGT+), a partnership between the Florida Distance Learning Consortium (now Florida Virtual Campus) and the University Press of Florida. One can follow the story on Dr. Mitchell's blog as it continues to unfold.

The blog, An Open Source Theatre Textbook, explains the problem Dr. Mitchell faced, the solution he arrived at, and provides a series of posts about e-readers, his motivation for creating an open textbook, the open source model, and the philosophy undergirding his effort. As part of that philosophy, he recognizes the importance of having a copy editor and peer reviewers, which cost money. He describes almost giving up on the project for lack of funds until he began a dialogue with University Press of Florida and subsequently received generous financial support from the University of Florida Provost and enthusiastic support from his dean. The blog continues to chronicle his efforts on the textbook.

Funded by Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE)