The textbooks for college courses can cost a pretty penny, especially if the publishers keep putting out a new edition year after year. Even if students manage to find someone to purchase their used copies, it’s still a losing proposition for the average student. That all might change soon in California. Governor Jerry Brown has signed legislation that will eventually provide free, open-source digital textbooks for 50 of the state’s most popular courses.
Granted, it’s just the digital copies of these books that will be available for free. Due to the Creative Commons license these would be published under, they could be easily shared and transferred without concern. A hard copy might cost as much as $20, but that’s a drop in the bucket compared to what these textbooks might have previously run students.
The two bills, SB 1052 and SB 1053, won’t immediately show any effect. Next year is when they’ll start taking proposals for open-source textbooks and dealing with the required funds, but it’s a start. There’s also a tiny clause that makes it clear that professors won’t be required to use these textbooks, but it’s hard to imagine why they wouldn’t use some version. Not everyone’s a masochist, after all.
The bills also allow for the open-source versions to be manipulate by others to provide things like video lessons. As long as there’s attribution to the source material, it’s all allowed. That’s a major step forward, even though such implementation is still a ways out from now.
For the time being, California college students will just have to pay exorbitant prices like suckers.
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