The Cost of Knowledge

A number of state public interest research groups have created a report entitled “Rip-off 101: Second Edition – How the Publishing Industry’s Practices Needlessly Drive Up Textbook Costs“. If you haven’t spent much time in college classes recently you may not be aware that it’s not unusual for students to spend $900 a year on textbooks. Many students now recoup some of that cost by selling their used textbooks back to the bookstore (let’s not even get into that scandel), but as publishers move towards electronic textbooks that is not going to be a possibility any longer. Of course publishers could drastically reduce the price of electronic textbooks and end up making about the same amount of money but they see this as just another way to profit on the backs of debt-ridden students.

Luckily there has been slow bust steady progress towards free and open “textbooks” and curriculum. This really started with the MIT OpenCourseWare project and has since expanded to numerous other offerings. Of course I’ve already written about Schiller’s free physics textbook, the All About Circuits electronics curriculum and the Learning by Doing CCNA textbooks but now there are even more.

The Textbook Revolution, Free Tech Books and Assayer websites all have lists of different free e-textbooks availible on a variety of subjects. If you’re in the position of influencing textbook purcahsing I would urge you to look and see if any of these free offerings could meet your needs. Perhaps you’ll even blend a few of them to create a free textbook unique to your class. In any event I’m certian students would appreciate the thought.

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