Every year, the average college student pays about $1,100 for textbooks alone. At this point, most textbooks assigned by college professors average around $150 each. That's almost the same cost as the course itself at California community colleges.
But the free, open-content movement that's been percolating for the past few years may change all that for the three million college students in California.
At a time when rising tuition costs are compelling students to reconsider buying college texts or even rethink the value of a college degree, the California State Legislature is pushing for colleges to use open education resources in the form of free online textbooks instead of print books as a means of saving students money.
State Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is proposing a bill today that will allocate $25 million of state coffers to create 50 free online college book titles that teachers can use, remix, add to, or edit as they see fit. The bill establishes the online California Digital Open Source Library, which will house the 50 most commonly used books for required lower-division courses. Similar to Flat World Knowledge, students and teachers will be able to access and adapt the texts online for free, or pay $20 for either printed form or interactive app form for tablets or mobile devices (think Kno or Inkling).
The bill calls for a request for proposal (RFP) to be submitted from all content providers, electronic platform providers, as well as publishers, that will fall under a Creative Commons license, which means it's open for reuse and repurposing (not copyrighted like most print books). A panel of expert faculty members would approve the content to make sure it meets the right standards and qualifications.