Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Free Intro Physics Textbook?

All of us who have gone through the educational system know how expensive textbooks can get. At the undergraduate level, when you have to buy new books almost every year (or even every semester), this can occupy a substantial portion of our yearly expenses.

This is what is being addressed in this article, and the impending availability of free intro textbooks to students.

But soon, introductory physics texts will have a new competitor, developed at Rice University. A free online physics book, peer-reviewed and designed to compete with major publishers’ offerings, will debut next month through the non-profit publisher OpenStax College.

Using Rice’s Connexions platform, OpenStax will offer free course materials for five common introductory classes. The textbooks are open to classes anywhere and organizers believe the programs could save students $90 million in the next five years if the books capture 10 percent of the national market. OpenStax is funded by grants from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the 20 Million Minds Foundation and the Maxfield Foundation.
This could be a game-changer if universities start to adopt it or something similar. Of course, we need to wait and see if the text is any good. But with the amount of effort put into this one, there's a good chance that it might be. So I'm looking forward to seeing this when it come out.

But I wonder how this will fit in with Apple's textbook initiatives. It appears that this textbook will be a standard PDF document and will not make full use of the technology that's available for tablets, etc. I suppose that is a good start, but I'm hoping that this free textbook initiative will look into modernizing the textbooks reading experience.


1 comment:

Daniel Williamson said...

Full disclaimer, I work at OpenStax College but I wanted to let you know that the books will all be available as EPUB, PDF, web-books and bound printed textbooks.

If you have any questions, please let us know (info@openstaxcollege)!

Thanks again for sharing our story!