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The world doesn't need another $150 Algebra One book
April 24, 2012 10:34 AM   Subscribe

The University of Minnesota recently announced that its College of Education and Human Development has created a searchable online catalog of "open textbooks" that are reviewed by U of M faculty. The books must be Openly Licensed, complete (not a draft version of the text, or a collection of lecture notes), suitable for use outside of the author's institution, and available in print for a reasonable price, generally less than $40 USD.

This site differs from other collections of open textbooks in that it is developed and supported by a well known and respected university. University of Minnesota faculty will be paid $500 to write a review of an open-source textbook, the same amount they earn to adopt such a book in class.

Related, previously:
* Boundless Learning, an attempt at simulating required textbooks through various open texts, is being sued by 3 major publishers.
* The Open College Textbook Act of 2009, which went nowhere.
posted by filthy light thief (14 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
At the moment, it ends up acting like another front-end to Flat World Knowledge's catalog (and wow, are those covers ugly.)
posted by smackfu at 10:47 AM on April 24, 2012


Meanwhile, Harvard is lashing out at the rising prices of journal subscriptions by encouraging its faculty to submit future papers to open source publications.

The textbook and journal market has long been considered money in the bank for many publishers. I don't think this piggy will be pooping quarters much longer.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:49 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Very interesting.

See also, previously.
posted by philipy at 10:52 AM on April 24, 2012


robocop is bleeding: Meanwhile, Harvard is lashing out at the rising prices of journal subscriptions by encouraging its faculty to submit future papers to open source publications.
Harvard’s annual cost for journals from these providers now approaches $3.75M. In 2010, the comparable amount accounted for more than 20% of all periodical subscription costs and just under 10% of all collection costs for everything the Library acquires. Some journals cost as much as $40,000 per year, others in the tens of thousands. Prices for online content from two providers have increased by about 145% over the past six years, which far exceeds not only the consumer price index, but also the higher education and the library price indices.
Bring on the Open Science Revolt, and may the other fields follow along.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:59 AM on April 24, 2012


Are there actually $150 Algebra I books?

I was so shocked I looked on Amazon, but I can't find any.

However, frankly, the world needs more $0 textbooks.
posted by philipy at 11:12 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here's a $100 one. Primary school books don't tend to be listed on Amazon since they are sold directly to the school districts.
posted by smackfu at 11:27 AM on April 24, 2012


I really don't understand why K-12 are not almost entirely on open textbooks, especially for math subjects. Even if the school system had to print their own copies for each student they'd still be saving a gigantic amount of money and it would actually make it easier and cheaper to update editions, problem sets, etc.
posted by cyphill at 11:31 AM on April 24, 2012


> I really don't understand why K-12 are not almost entirely on open textbooks

Because the status quo is very lucrative. After reading Feynman's biography, where he had a short stint reviewing textbooks, the graft he was expected to receive - even 30+ years ago - was staggering.
posted by scruss at 11:38 AM on April 24, 2012


K-12 textbooks also seem more workman-like than college books. Like a college professor will write a textbook for prestige, but I don't know that anyone would do the same for 3rd grade US History.
posted by smackfu at 11:41 AM on April 24, 2012


This is great, though it is slim pickings for many disciplines. I hope this becomes a vibrant resource with such institutional support. I would be interested to know if they have an open access Institutional Depository or another form of supporting the dissemination and archiving of their faculty and staff's research to match this.
posted by jetlagaddict at 12:01 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


jetlagaddict, it looks like the university is supportive. A quick search for "open access" on UMN.edu turned up that UMN's provost and senior vice president for academic affairs joined 10 other provosts in supporting Open Access scholarship, the university libraries have a page on Open Access Business Models, and there's a Global Health Open Access Lecture Library.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:24 PM on April 24, 2012


(So I did a little research and turned up the CK-12 Foundation which already offers a near full curriculum of K-12 textbooks, as well as the ability to modify the contents in a limited way to adapt to curriculum. They've got some hefty names on their advisers list, including Jimmy Wales from wikipedia, so perhaps its just a matter of time before cash-strapped school boards start looking at open options.)
posted by cyphill at 1:00 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks, cyphill!

In 2009, California found CK-12 Flexbooks to meet most of the state's standards, and the Phase 3 Digital Textbook Initiative results are now online, listing how many content standards were met for a variety of digital resources.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:14 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know that anyone would do the same for 3rd grade US History

I can imagine a collective of interested 3rd grade teachers would be down, if you could get them some paid time off. Throw in a couple of subject matter experts as well, and it'd be interesting to see what they'd do: would they reinvent the wheel (i.e. crappy textbook) or do something new that uses the affordances of web- or tablet-based platforms?
posted by smirkette at 6:42 PM on April 24, 2012


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