TheTextbookGuru.com has been following this bill since it was introduced in 2011. Last week the bill was unanimously approved and has been sent to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk for signature. Once signed it will be the Nation’s First Open Source Textbook Legislation. Here are a few thoughts on the bill and why it matters.
1. California matters.
While California isn’t the first to launch such a project, they are the first state to launch such a large initiative. We have seen the Washington State board launch open classes and the State of Utah creating open textbooks, which sell in print for just $5. What differs here is that California legislation is focused on higher education and the most-important, most-taken classes in college. If these textbooks prove to be a quality alternative to the more costly editions currently being used, this model will spread.
2. California Enterprise wants this to succeed.
Lots of forward-thinking foundations and great minds in the state want this to succeed. California is the home of Creative Commons, the organization by which the digital licensing will be structured. 20 Million Minds (@20MillionMinds), which has already produced a quality textbook in digital format for free, is California based and has been actively involved in pushing for this bill’s passage. MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching) is a Cal State project. This new program will make California educators innovators in the new way education is heading.
3. Students are the real winners, faculty have to give it a chance.
With the cost of education rising and the cost of textbooks increasing as well, something has to give. The math in which this bill was created is pretty simple: If you have 100,000 students taking a course and they each pay $10 for a book, you generate one million dollars. If the state pays for the book’s development and uses the proceeds to fund future editions or other books, they program becomes self sustaining. If, mind you…
It will be up to the council to ensure that the quality of books developed meet the needs of faculty and are suitable for adoption. The publishers have a large sales force and they will not go away easily. With custom publications growing and publisher reps deeply entrenched, the fight for adoptions will not be an easy one. All that is asked is that faculty give it a chance; if a professor feels that the digital alternative is equal to or better, then adopt it and save students money. If not, stick with the print offering that does work. And the Guru concurs that the plan is a fair one that could bring some much needed relief and some new ideas in terms of content and delivery.