Best-selling chemistry textbook is now free

The author of a popular organic chemistry textbook is making it freely available to students after learning about a loophole in his copyright agreement with the publisher. John McMurry’s Organic Chemistry has been one of the best selling chemistry textbooks…

The author of a popular organic chemistry textbook is making it freely available to students after learning about a loophole in his copyright agreement with the publisher.

John McMurry’s Organic Chemistry has been one of the best selling chemistry textbooks since it was first printed in 1984. Under his agreement with Cengage Learning, the book’s publisher, McMurry realised he could ask for the book’s copyright to be returned to him 30 years after it was first printed. Without copyright of the first edition, the publisher is unable to produce any more new editions, McMurry notes.

McMurry, an emeritus professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Cornell University, US, says the move was a tribute to his son who passed away from cystic fibrosis three years ago. Source: © CengageThe book’s ninth edition, released in 2015, is available for around £70 in the UK and $80 in the US Now McMurry is writing the book’s tenth edition, releasing it for free next summer on OpenStax, an educational technology nonprofit run out of Rice University, US. The book’s ninth, 2015, edition is currently sold for around £70 in the UK and $80 in the US. The upcoming edition – and likely any future editions – will be freely available worldwide as digital download. But the aim isn’t to make publishers go out of business, McMurry says. Cengage will still make money from McMurry’s book through the supporting online material. ‘We like to have them continue selling that because a lot of students want that,’ McMurry says. He explains publishers still do add value. ‘I would not want to see them disappear, but they’re not going to make anywhere near as much money in the future.’ ‘Good for him,’ says Peter Atkins, a UK-based chemist who has written several chemistry textbooks, including the popular Atkins’ Physical Chemistry. ‘It’s a very brave move.’ Atkins acknowledges that textbook prices are extraordinarily high, particularly in the US, where there is a strong market for second-hand textbooks, so authors have to recoup their costs within the first year of publication. However, major textbook publisher Pearson has suggested publishers could start making money from book resales using blockchain technology. Atkins says that one should not downplay the role of publishers who help authors develop their ideas, survey the market, undertake advertising, market the products, and carry out copyediting and typesetting. David Harris, editor-in-chief of OpenStax, says under his firm’s business model authors are paid to write textbooks that are made freely available online. This is different to the royalties paid out by publishers under the traditional model. OpenStax gets its money from a variety of philanthropic individuals and organisations. ‘Our real role is to remove friction that exists in the way textbooks are published and used,’ adds OpenStax founder Richard Baraniuk, an electrical and computer engineer at Rice University. McMurry decided to donate his OpenStax payments to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Related articlesNewsOver 800 European research institutions and funders urge publishing reform2021-05-28T08:30:00ZPublishers must let researchers deposit their manuscripts in an open repository with no embargo, joint statement assertsNewsElsevier flips 160 journals to open access2021-01-14T09:30:00ZMove comes as Plan S comes into forceResearchTextbook aromatic substitution mechanism overthrown2018-07-23T15:14:00ZEstablished intermediate in nucleophilic aromatic substitution found to be a rare exception rather than the rule More NewsResearchChemical decapitation renders PFAS harmless2022-08-22T14:51:00ZAn unexpected mechanism destroys persistent perfluorinated chemicals, though the method isn’t ready for the field yetNewsAfghan scientific expertise scattered, one year on from Taliban takeover2022-08-22T10:38:00ZAfghanistan’s research infrastructure may be idling, but students and researchers who managed to escape abroad continue their work and plan to return to help rebuild their homelandResearch3D printing allows blind chemists to visualise scientific data2022-08-22T10:25:00ZLithophanes produced with a basic 3D printer can make research findings more accessible SubscribeAdvertiseTopicsIssuesContributors HelpContactPrivacyCookiesTerms of useAccessibilityPermissions Our mission News and events Campaigns Awards and funding Global challenges Support our work © Royal Society of Chemistry Registered charity number: 207890 This website collects cookies to deliver a better user experience. See how this site uses cookies. This website collects cookies to deliver a better user experience. Do not sell my personal data. Este site coleta cookies para oferecer uma melhor experiência ao usuário. Veja como este site usa cookies. Site powered by Webvision Cloud