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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 0100010001010011 (652467) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @12:44PM (#38598108)

    A while back slashdot had a story about Open Source text books. I scanned through the books they had available and they were absolute junk. It appeared to be written in word with formulas printed out then scanned in as images and inserted inline. Needless to say they looked horrible.

    Has the opensource Calculus book moved on to LaTeX since then or does it still look the same?

  • Greed (here) is good (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MacAndrew (463832) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @01:15PM (#38598700) Homepage

    It's not just a good idea, it's inevitable. The immediate drive, always a convincing one in politics, is money. the interesting Q is HOW to do it, but whether to start, and to do it with public money is a no-brainer. You might otherwise as well question whether public-financed education is relevant. That ship has sailed, and this is just one part of that critical project. Feynman's essay on textbook adoption is timeless: http://www.textbookleague.org/103feyn.htm [textbookleague.org]

    Current textbooks are overweight, expensive, and boring. Many schools including ours have been reduced into getting students two copies because they were to heavy to take to school and back (really). Now the kids rarely even open the things.

  • Re:Tuition (Score:5, Interesting)

    by querist (97166) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @03:30PM (#38601002) Homepage
    I'm a college professor and I've never heard of these kickbacks except from people claiming that they exist. I select textbooks because they are what is available. I hate it when publishers change a few minor things and put out a new edition. I have three versions of the same book published within a four-year period and the fourth edition is coming out later this year. And they keep changing the order of the chapters so I have to change assignments, test questions, etc. Granted, I don't mind keeping my courses up to date, but I think a new edition of a text book every 16-18 months is a bit much, especially when the editions are not compatible for things such as exercises and chapter ordering. I LIKE used textbooks. I would encourage my students to use them if I could, but it seems that the publishers are trying to kill the used-book market for textbooks. I realize that things change rapidly in computer science, but I think they could slow down the update rate a little on these books without sacrificing much. The only thing worse is when a good textbook is NOT updated at all. One of my favorite texts is now horridly out of date, but there is no new edition on the horizon and I really can't find a better book for the subject. I've been forced to use two lesser books (which I also hate doing - I think you should have one textbook per class). Sorry for the rant, but I want people to understand that the professors are just as frustrated by all of this as you are, except perhaps the ones who author the textbooks. The fact that I receive free "desk copies" of books does not eliminate my frustration. I know my students are still paying huge amounts of money for textbooks and there's only so much I can do about it. I'm trying to find open textbook alternatives, and I may have to take time to write one if I can't find one.

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