ASU lecturer presenting solutions for costly college texts

E-textbook evangelist and ASU lecturer Matt McCarthy

The Oct. 22 ASU Humanities Lecture features W. P. Carey senior lecturer Matt McCarthy in a frank discussion of what's holding back a shift to digital college textbooks — and what authors, teachers and students can do to promote change.


Digital textbooks are portable, easily searchable, sustainable and less expensive than printed versions. So why aren’t they being more widely adopted in higher education? What else can be done to lower textbook prices?

ASU’s Matt McCarthy thinks a lot about these questions — and they will be the focus of his presentation on Thursday, Oct. 22, as part of the 2015-16 ASU Humanities Lecture Series, sponsored by the College of Letters and Sciences on the Downtown Phoenix campus.

McCarthy, a self-described e-book evangelist, comes to this issue from the point of view of a university instructor — he teaches computer information systems to 4,000 students a year in ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business — and as a parent of six children.

“Four of my kids have student loans, and two are currently in college,” McCarthy said. “We just paid an outlandish $900 for fall-semester books at a California university. And we’ve all heard the horror stories of students paying upward of $200 for a textbook from which a few chapters end up getting assigned.”

But McCarthy isn’t one to just complain about the status quo. This presentation will not only bring to light inefficiencies and corruption in the college textbook economy, but will also focus on the solutions, he said.

“I want to introduce some human solutions that are pragmatic and economically good for each party in the textbook transaction,” he said. “People don’t understand that they have options.”

McCarthy, who began teaching at ASU in 2003, holds a master of science in management from Northern Arizona University. In 2011, he was presented with the W. P. Carey School’s Huizingh Award for Classroom Innovation for his work in turning the teaching of basic business computing on its head.

McCarthy is the author of the bestselling e-textbook “Applied Business Computing Concepts,” distributed on iTunes, as well as “Black & White Business Computing” and its companion lab book, “Black & White Business Applications,” published by Prentice Hall.

“It’s clear that the textbook industry is nearing a tipping point, and Matt is able to bring to the discussion insights as a teacher, a textbook author and parent,” noted Mirna Lattouf, principal lecturer in the College of Letters and Sciences and organizer of the Humanities Lecture Series.

“He’s also had extensive interactions with educators in Arizona’s community college system and in the other state universities, articulating alignment of business computing courses across institutions,” she said. “Matt cares deeply about learning and students’ best interests, and we’re looking forward to a lively presentation and conversation.”

The lecture will be held in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication/KAET Channel 8 (CRONK), room 128, at 6:30 p.m. It is free and open to the public.