On Wednesday afternoon, 21 July, Nicole Allen, director of The Student PIRGs’ Make Textbooks Affordable campaign, hosted a press conference to discuss H.R. 4137, The Higher Education Opportunity Act, which went into effect on 1 July 2010. Participating in the press conference were Nicole, U.S. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL; Assistant Senate Majority Leader), Rashi Mangalick (a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison) and yours truly. The discussion highlighted Sen. Durbin’s contributions to the textbook language contained in the legislation. In summary, the three main points are: 1) Publishers must disclose textbook price and revision information to faculty during the marketing process, 2) Publishers must offer unbundled versions of textbooks, and 3) colleges must include the list of assigned textbooks during course registration. More information regarding the law and the textbook affordability provisions may be found on the Student PIRGs website, as well as a list of some of the available open textbooks.
It’s no secret that I’m a huge supporter of the open textbook movement and for all that Nicole is advocating. On 20 June 2010, I blogged about Open Source in Higher Education and discussed my favorite publisher of open source textbooks, Flat World Knowledge. The reason that I prefer to use open source textbooks from Flat World is the level of support that they provide to instructors who adopt their products including chapter manuals, chapter power point presentations, exam databases for Blackboard, WebCT Vista, Moodle and other learning platforms. Students can read the book for free on-line, including the capability to highlight sections of the text and to save their highlights. In addition, they have a variety of book purchase options including per chapter and the opportunity to purchase support materials/study aids and chapter audio/mp3 files. Flat World is the first open source book publisher to provide professors with the full support that they receive from traditional publishers – hence my endorsement of their products and business model.
Other links to open source materials are provided below. The list is compiled by and compliments of the University of the People, the world’s first tuition-free online university. There is a degree of redundancy in the links as some link back to the same resources. Other than Flat World, the two that I use for my classes are MERLOT and BookBoon (who offers free textbooks supported by an advertising model). Neither match the level of support provided by Flat World, but do offer a wider variety of selection for now.
Open Source Textbook Resources:
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The list isn’t exhaustive and is only meant to offer a starting point to assist in your adoption of open source textbooks. Detailed instruction about how to adopt an open source textbook is provided on the Connexions Open Textbook Adoption Quick Start website. If your course is one for which Flat World has a textbook, you’re in luck. If not, perhaps you may want to consider developing an open source textbook under the Creative Commons license for your subject area. If no book exists and you’re interested in writing one, contact Flat World and pitch your book idea.
A special thanks to Nicole Allen, The Student PIRGs, Senator Dick Durbin, Rashi Mangalick, Flat World Knowledge and the University of the People for your work in bringing open source textbooks to the forefront of the academic debate. Likewise, an extra debt of gratitude goes to the University of the People for compiling this list of open source textbook resources. Open your mind to the educational possibilities that open source textbooks offer the world – join the call for open source textbooks.