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California State Senator Proposes Funding Open-Source Textbooks 193

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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  • Tuition (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aztrailerpunk ( 1971174 ) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @12:42PM (#38598068)
    Trying to lower the cost of books is a great idea but what stops schools from not raising tuition on the back end when they see those funds become available. Get school tuition under control first and then worry about the books.
  • by alphatel ( 1450715 ) * on Thursday January 05, 2012 @12:43PM (#38598094)

    How do you "break the legs" of a registered charity like Wikimedia Foundation?

    Press charges in your country against their leader, extradite him, and then try him for "terrorism"

  • Inevitable, I Hope (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dcollins ( 135727 ) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @12:52PM (#38598274) Homepage

    As a college math teacher, my gut instinct is that this is the only damn thing that really makes any sense. Math books are probably ground-zero in that they have no need or right to change very much from year-to-year. They ought to be written once, and released for free for anyone to download and use (and modify and improve if you need to). If there's any more compelling use of computing technology to distribute knowledge, I frankly don't know what it is.

    What I see happening currently is one of two options: (a) Use a mass-market book that the publisher churns with a not-quite-compatible edition every year or two. The statistics text used in my classes (picked by department, not me) is excellent, but a new copy costs $180 to students, which kind of breaks my heart (multiply that by all their classes each year, holy damn!). (b) Use an in-house written textbook custom to the department (done in a lot of lower-level classes) which will be cheaper, lets the department recoup some of the money, but is of much lower quality (fewer exercises by an order-of-magnitude, no proofreading for errors, no graphic design, no color, hand-drawn sketches, etc.) And this work is probably repeated thousands of times at schools across the country.

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

  • by taiwanjohn ( 103839 ) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @12:55PM (#38598328)

    This. The problem with "state mandated" open-source anything is that it's (by definition) not "open" anymore. Apart from that, it's a great idea.

    In fact, it's such a great idea, that you almost don't need the "school" part anymore. Between wikipedia (et. al.) and the plethora of lecture videos on various topics available online, the only thing left is interaction with a teacher/mentor for any questions or skill-building exercises, and even that is probably available online these days too.

    The only problem is: this is only enough to actually learn the material... you still don't get that "accredited" piece of paper. Given the skyrocketing costs of modern education (in the USA at least), how long will it be before people start leapfrogging the bricks-and-mortar education system altogether?

  • Re:Tuition (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jcombel ( 1557059 ) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @01:01PM (#38598440)

    all of my classes that i felt required a textbook to get an A, the book happened to have been (co)authored by the professor.

    academic instruction as an avenue for royalties hooooo

  • Re:Tuition (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ByOhTek ( 1181381 ) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @01:07PM (#38598564) Journal

    I don't think I've ever had a class where the professor [co]authored the book, but plenty where it was necessary.

    Books certainly are a nice way to get some royalties, but it isn't a universal method.

"The number of Unix installations has grown to 10, with more expected." -- The Unix Programmer's Manual, 2nd Edition, June, 1972