OpenStax to publish new edition of bestselling organic chemistry textbook

Rice University

OpenStax, Rice University’s educational technology initiative that provides students and instructors with free learning resources, will publish the 10th edition of Cornell University professor emeritus John McMurry’s bestselling organic chemistry textbook next year.

Organic chemistry is one of the most challenging courses in the sciences and typically requires costly materials. McMurry’s Organic Chemistry, first published in 1984 by Cengage Learning (Brooks/Cole), has been translated into at least 11 languages and has become the market-leading textbook for the course. McMurry, with the support of Cengage, chose to publish the upcoming 10th edition with OpenStax as a tribute to his son, Peter McMurry, who died in 2019 after a long struggle with cystic fibrosis.

“This is a watershed moment for OpenStax and the open educational resources (OER) movement,” said Richard Baraniuk, founder and director of OpenStax. “This publication will quickly provide a free, openly licensed, high-quality resource to hundreds of thousands of students in the U.S. taking organic chemistry, removing what can be a considerable cost and access barrier.”

“If Peter were still alive, I have no doubt that he would want me to work on this 10th edition with a publisher that made the book free to students,” McMurry said. “To make this possible, I am not receiving any payment for this book, and generous supporters have covered not only the production costs but have also made a donation of $500,000 to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to help find a cure for this terrible disease.”

Used by more than 1 million students over its first nine editions, McMurry’s Organic Chemistry is widely recognized for its scholarship, precise explanations, innovative illustrations and applications suitable for pre-med, allied health, bioengineering, biology, chemistry and related majors.

For the 10th edition, McMurry is working with contributors that represent diverse populations and institutions to provide scientific updates, an enhanced visualization program, new problems and timely applications. OpenStax will publish the new edition into its latest digital platform, and it will be supported by two of the most advanced courseware programs on the market, Cengage WebAssign and Aktiv Chemistry.

“Cengage shares a commitment to providing affordable access to quality learning for students,” said Thais Alencar, vice president of product management for Cengage Academic. “This initiative means students get access to high-quality content alongside a powerful digital learning platform that helps drive success in this challenging and important discipline.”

OpenStax has published 57 free, openly licensed titles in its library and is set to increase that total to 67 by 2024. More than 6 million students use OpenStax resources each year, which has saved them more than $1 billion since 2012. This will be the 16th textbook Cengage has made available in its online learning platforms as an OpenStax Ally, part of a commitment to providing a variety of affordable course materials to students.

“Textbook prices represent a significant cost barrier to student participation in STEM education,” said David Powers, associate professor of chemistry at Texas A&M University. “The inclusion of the McMurry text in the OpenStax platform represents a high-quality option that will significantly benefit our organic chemistry students.”

OER and OpenStax have become central to the learning materials landscape for postsecondary courses. According to independent research firm Bay View Analytics, 2021 was the first year the majority of faculty in the United States were aware of OER and OpenStax. The research named OpenStax as the top OER publisher and a top 5 textbook publisher overall by volume, a major force driving growth in the field.

Organic Chemistry will be published in time to be available for courses next fall. It will be available online, in web and PDF formats, along with an openly licensed, free student solution manual and other ancillaries.

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