Monthly Archives: April, 2012

Free and Open Source College Textbooks

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a number of websites and organizations set up to address the high cost of textbooks. They are using the open source content model to bring low-cost or free textbooks to the party.

The most recent announcement comes from OpenStax College which announced  that they will be releasing free of charge a series of five books. The group plans to offer more than 20 titles.

OpenStax College is a nonprofit organization committed to improving student access to quality learning materials. Their free textbooks are developed and peer-reviewed by educators (including two Nobel laureates) to ensure they are readable, accurate, and meet the scope and sequence requirements of your course. Through partnerships with companies and foundations committed to reducing costs for students, OpenStax College is working to improve access to higher education for all. OpenStax College is an initiative of Rice University and is made possible through the generous support of several philanthropic foundations.

The first five books are College Physics, Intro to Sociology, Biology, Concepts of Biology, and Anatomy and Physiology. Once published, they will be free to download and view via the Web, PDF or EPUB. Given the nature of open-source content, faculty is a big part of the development process as they are encouraged to post corrections, suggest examples, or volunteer as editors.

It’s innovation in education. And the time is right to offer free textbooks that meet scope and sequence requirements for most courses. With a popularity of the iPad and other tablets students should welcome this free content. Being these are peer-reviewed texts written by professional content developers they should be welcomed by professors who are sensitive to the cost of textbooks for students. Professors can adopt a book today for a turnkey classroom solution or modify it to suit your teaching approach. As with a lot of the open-source content now being shared, it will take a bit of time for these college books to work their way into the adoption process, but as they do, it is clear that a peer-reviewed book will have a leg up in credibility and thus in getting more widespread adoption and classroom use. Free online and low-cost printed books are built for student budgets.