Professors put free books online, generate millions of hits
By Paul Lewis Siddoway
Two professors at the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business are providing students around the world with free books for their accounting classes.
Larry Walther, a professor and head of the School of Accountancy, published Principles of Accounting online and offered it to the world for free in 1998, saying that it seemed like “the obvious thing to do at the time.” The book now receives 10 million hits a month from more than 100 universities and colleges.
Dr. Walther’s Principles of Accounting and seven other free volumes he co-authored with Chris Skousen, an associate professor of accounting at the Huntsman School of Business, provide access to the lesson text, workbook problems, and video supplements for lower division accounting principles classes.
Dr. Skousen said since he began using e-books in 2009, they have had a global reach. Instructors from institutions all over the world have started using the Huntsman professors’ e-book materials, including Jared Burgess, who received his MBA from the Huntsman School in 2010 and is now teaching in Korea.
The books are also examples of other pillars of the Huntsman School.
“Innovation, entrepreneurship, and leadership are all part of the Huntsman School’s mission,” Dr. Skousen said. “That’s what we’re doing here; we’re at the front of the new thing. The way things are going, you’re going to see a lot more e-books.”
Dr. Walther said that part of his reasoning for offering his books for free was that he hoped to help students. He also said he wanted to keep the information and examples current, without having to reprint the whole work. Dr. Skousen added that the format seems to be the preferred method of students.
“In one class, only one of forty-six students said they preferred to have a real textbook,” Dr. Skousen said. “So now we made it possible to print the whole book, not just each PDF file.”
In July, a national survey by Kelton Research reported that 62 percent of students surveyed would study more often if they could access their textbooks digitally, and 54 percent would study more efficiently.
The books that Dr. Walther and Dr. Skousen have written are available at www.bookboon.com, a website that offers downloads of textbooks, business books, and travel guides for free. Dr. Walther's work is available at www.principlesofaccounting.com.