20MM and Kno Launch Open Source eTextbook

Electronic textbooks and open source content have been hot topics in education recently as students, teachers and administrators get excited over these game changing technologies. Now, thanks to 20 Million Minds and Kno, we are seeing the two meet in a commercially viable model for the first time. The two companies have joined forces to launch the nation’s first web 2.0, open source eTextbook  for college students.20MM plans to produce open source etextbooks for the top 25 courses taken by undergraduates in the nation, with general statistics being one of the largest of these courses. Looking just at California community colleges, over 120,000 students take general statistics every year, and with an average new book price of over $150, these students collectively spend over $10 million per year on books for this single course.

Now they can turn to Kno, where they can get a free PDF of Collaborative Statistics, 2nd Eddition, written by Barbara Illowsky and Susan Dean, faculty members at De Anza College in Cupertino, California. Kno also offers an enhanced version of the text, which allows you to use all the features Kno offers on it’s other titles, for $20 for the semester. “The reason that I am involved in this project is taht I believe this enhanced version goes well beyond that of a flat PDF to increase student learning. WE already have a free textbook. Now I want to improve the learning experience by offering students what I consider a Web 2.0 experience,” said Illowsky.

This kind of partnership between for-profit companies like Kno and non-profits like 20MM may be just what we’ve been waiting for to take open source textbooks to the next level. “This new offerin is designed for college students to improve their learning experience, results and significantly lower the textbook cost,” said Dean Florez, President of 20MM Foundation. “This digitally enhanced etextbook provides a vision of what is now possible for a new generation of open content and authors.”

With such a promising partnership, and 24 more open source etextbooks planned, it’s an exciting time for cash-strapped undergrads everywhere. Florez predicts “massive adoption by faculty by spring 2012,” a lofty goal but whether it catches on this spring or next, there’s no doubt this is a threat for many publishers and a game changer for college students.

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