California To Commission 50 Open Textbooks For 2013; Finnish Teachers Write One In A Weekend

Techdirt has been following open textbooks for some time now, and 2012 looks to be a bumper year for them. Here, for example, is a major initiative in the US:

California college students hit with tuition increases in recent years will get a little financial help after Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Thursday to create a website on which popular textbooks can be downloaded for free.

Twin bills by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) will give students free digital access to 50 core textbooks for lower-division courses offered by the University of California, California State University and California Community College systems. Hard copies of the texts would cost $20.

The bill establishes a new California Open Education Resources Council, which will be required to choose the 50 core textbooks and then:

to establish a competitive request-for-proposal process in which faculty members, publishers, and other interested parties would apply for funds to produce, in 2013, 50 high-quality, affordable, digital open source textbooks

which would be released under a cc-by license. The move is likely to be significant nationally, as an article in The Textbook Guru points out:

The ripple effect of this legislation should spread way past California and throughout the whole country. With quality publisher-grade peer-reviewed options becoming newly available in open format and competing against the high-priced publishers’ textbooks, faculty will need to pause to review these and see how they can be used in their classroom.

After all, if high-quality textbooks are freely available in digital form — or hence for low prices as printed copies — hard-pressed universities elsewhere in the US (and internationally) would be crazy not to consider them. The cc-by license means that the text can be freely modified for local needs as necessary, or translated.

As the above indicates, those 50 titles won’t be ready until next year. Meanwhile, in Finland, some teachers decided to produce something a little sooner:

A group of Finnish mathematics researchers, teachers and students write an upper secondary mathematics textbook in a booksprint. The event started on Friday 28th September at 9:00 (GMT+3) and the book will be (hopefully) ready on Sunday evening.

You can find the book’s LaTeX source code in a repository on Github: it’s under the same cc-by license as the California books, so you can adapt it freely — if you can read Finnish….

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