Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Opensource for Textbooks

Non-profit publisher OpenStax College is working with Rice University to develop online textbooks for introductory college classes.  The eTexts will be available for use anywhere and OpenStax thinks that their program could save students as much as $90 million over the next five years, and could capture more than ten percent of the intro text market in the U.S.
  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

1 comment:

  1. I definitely think college students would utilize eTexts if they were readily available. In the past, I bought an Ebook for one of my college classes. It was effortless to find online, it was half the price of the book as it was in the store, and I could easily maneuver the chapters. Unfortunately, not all books are offered online. However, college students would definitely jump on this opportunity to get online books so they can save money and time for themselves. Although this would probably cause print publication businesses to lose a lot of revenue, they would have to adapt. We live in a society where technology dominates our lives, so it only makes sense that more and more college textbooks would be accessible from computers and tablets.