Requesting Donations

Hello all,
I have two open textbooks that I’ve published with a 3rd in the works. As you all are aware, open textbooks generally cost money to develop, design, maintain, etc. However, they generally don’t generate revenue. I’ve thought about putting a request for donations to help support each textbook in the back matter of the books. I have a few questions related to that. First, is asking for donations tacky, or is it a good idea? Also, what is the best way to do this? I’m leaning towards setting up a way to donate via Venmo or PayPal (my personal Venmo and PayPal accounts), and then transfer those donations to a K-State Foundation that I control. I would make it clear that donations would be used to support the open textbooks. Is there anything I should consider before going down this route? Any thoughts are appreciated.

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Hi Colby, thanks for starting this conversation and acknowledging the work that goes into creating textbooks (or other OER). I hope we can get to a point where we ensure fair compensation for everyone involved in this process! I’d be curious to hear what others think of this idea — while many OER projects are supported by institutional grants, there are plenty of others that are not as well-funded. I think the reception of this idea will boil down to how well you communicate a few things: the labour that goes into this process, why someone may want to donate, and what you would do with any funds collected. See how OpenStax (a non-profit OER publisher) solicits donations for their various projects. In terms of tools used, it would boil down to what you feel is easiest to manage. Another side to consider would be transparency of donations and how you can clearly show others where those funds were used.

Thanks, @apurva. You make excellent points. I like how OpenStax approaches it.

Also, my intent with the question was less about “compensation”, and more about being able to fund improvements to the books by hiring graphic and instructional designers, paying publication fees for associated journal articles, etc. K-State has an open-textbook fee ($10/student per class using open textbooks) which helps out to this end, at least for classes with large enrollments. Being able to tap into other audiences for donations and support would help even further.

Thanks for the clarification! This flags another important part of the OER conversation: maintenance of texts and ensuring their usefulness over the long-term. I wonder if some of these duties (graphic design, instructional design) can eventually be built into the responsibilities for these positions, and funded by the institution itself. In the meantime, soliciting support from the public, especially those adopters who have a vested interest in keeping the resource updated is understandable. This is akin to the open source software model (which open ed. shares similarities with), where donations are often a way to show gratitude to the creators for making the resource, keeping it updated, and sharing it openly.

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