One big difference between this program and other open texts is that OpenStax is following the traditional textbook publishing process of peer-review and heavy editing for accuracy and validity. OpenStax, primarily funded through grants, is using the grant to hire experts to develop each textbook (rather than paying royalties for actual sales), and going through several layers of peer review in the creation of the texts. They are also willing to incorporate materials from for-profit publishing partners when appropriate, although the costs for those materials will need to be passed on to students. Within the next few months, introductory texts for sociology and physics classes, with biology, anatomy, and physiology texts available next fall
Students and professors will be able to download PDF versions on their computers or access the information on a mobile device. Paper editions will be sold for the cost of printing. The 600-page, full-color sociology book is expected to sell for $30 for those who want a print version -- those content with digital will pay nothing. Leading introductory sociology texts routinely cost between $60 and $120 new.As open-source materials, textbooks can be modified by instructors, giving professors the capability to add content, shift sequence, or delete sections. They also share the Ebook advantages of being instantly updatable, whether correcting typos, expanding chapters, or adding new chapters or supplemental materials. These are all valuable features for users, but could be a problem for educational publishers who have exploited the captive market of required texts, and regular new editions, to keep prices high.
Taken in connection with Apple's IBooks-textbooks initiative focused on K-12 education, this could signal the start of a major shift in educational publishing industry and the markets for textbooks.
Sources - Rice University announces open-source textbooks, Inside Higher Ed
OpenStax College website
iBooks textbooks, Apple in Education
edit track: added links for OpenStax College and Apple initiative