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California State Senator Proposes Funding Open-Source Textbooks 193

Posted by timothy
from the benefit-the-commonwealth dept.
bcrowell writes "Although former Governor Schwarzenegger's free digital textbook initiative for K-12 education was a failure, state senator Darrell Steinberg has a new idea for the state-subsidized publication of college textbooks (details in the PDF links at the bottom). Newspaper editorials seem positive. It will be interesting to see if this works any better at the college level than it did for K-12, where textbook selection has traditionally been very bureaucratic. This is also different from Schwarzenegger's FDTI because Steinberg proposes spending state money to help create the books. The K-12 version suffered from legal uncertainty about the Williams case, which requires equal access to books for all students — many of whom might not have computers at home. At the symposium where the results of the FDTI's first round were announced, it became apparent that the only businesses interested in participating actively were not the publishers but computer manufacturers like Dell and Apple, who wanted to sell lots of hardware to schools."
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California State Senator Proposes Funding Open-Source Textbooks

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  • by jimicus (737525) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @12:19PM (#38598768)

    When you make $150 profit on a simple 600-page textbook, you can afford the muscle.

    You don't, as it happens. It's a very similar business model to records, in many ways. There's vast costs that the general public not only doesn't see, they're barely aware even exist - things like proofreading, editing, marketing - over and above the basic print and distribute bits that we all know about. (Free clue: A lot of books on the market today would be borderline unreadable without massive editing and proofreading effort.)

    The only difference between textbooks and records in this case is that the publisher has a better idea how many buyers they'll attract - and that buyers are less likely to be put off by a high price - so they've got a pretty good idea how much they'll need to charge to cover all these costs. Even so, quite a few books never really make much money.

  • by Baloroth (2370816) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @12:33PM (#38598976)
    Except when you change a handful of diagrams and re-order a few chapters to produce a new edition of a text-book, your editing costs go towards zero, and even with the relatively few buyers, profits are incredible. Plus, you completely eliminate the second hand-market. This is routine practice for college (and to a lesser degree high-school) textbooks.
  • Kickstart It? (Score:4, Informative)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday January 05, 2012 @12:35PM (#38599010) Journal

    Just write the damn thing once, somehow, and give it away free to everyone. Seems inevitable, and I'm eager to see it.

    Hey man if you're up for writing it, I'd definitely chuck $25 at a thing like this. I donated $25 to Daniel Shiffman's Nature of Code [kickstarter.com] book and plan on reviewing it on Slashdot once he's done. Here's some examples of his latest products for it: PDF of Chapter 10 [shiffman.net] and Code [shiffman.net].

    Figure out how much money you would need to have your department make some creative common texts and see how Kickstarter responds ...

... when fits of creativity run strong, more than one programmer or writer has been known to abandon the desktop for the more spacious floor. -- Fred Brooks

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