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The University of Minnesota is looking to find and evaluate open source textbooks for many classes. What do you think?
Catharine Strauss's profile photoLora Head's profile photoJessica McCormick's profile photoVictoria Hanson's profile photo
Textbooks aren't currently competing so much on quality or price; it's not clear what the motivation is for some books in more general topics.

For common topics - English Composition, Physics/Kinematics, World History, Intro to Computer Science - this seems like it could have immediate and terrific impact.
Great idea if the information is quality - there doesnt' seem like there is a good reason to charge triple digits for a textbook... who is making all the money?
Open source is an excellent idea for society in every area in which it can be applied.
Its just a big scam. Literature is developed on computers, why not leave it there? Publishers wouldn't have to pay costs to print and distribute if they would just offer a downloadable pdf to consumers. Its more environmentally friendly, deffinitaly cheaper, and easier-but the bottom line is its less money in their greedy palms.
Perfect! How many millions of students overpay for textbooks that they use for only one semester? This is a step in the right direction.
Kick ass. Smart move. This gets better information on the table for students. It's a fact that crowdsourced action can put more effort toward creating something like a textbook than any company out there can. Plus, cheap or no cost by comparison with the added benefits of being easily replaceable, more accessible and for the students, not backbreaking, better able to be read, can be read with TTS even somewhere like in a vehicle or on a trip, in some cases interactive, which adds to the experience as anyone who's taken a Rosetta Stone course and learned from it can attest really is better.
Well, I was thinking. I am planning to retire so I could write books based on my course materials and let them go for free. But then it would take a lot of time to write those books...and since I teach technology courses they would be out of date in 6 months and historic in a year. So why would anyone who is not planning to retire and keeps up with technology write books and give them away for free? Or why would teachers want to use out of date material just because it is free? Maybe this is just a technology problem and courses in English or History can use material that is not updated each semester. Just a thought.
+Susan Bonser , i think the point is that these e-books (and dynamic books, which are different and even better) can be updated in real-time... whereas a book you wrote and printed would be fixed and doomed to dating. e-books can be continuously up-to-date. the issue is accessibility. if you don't own laptop/eReader(of any brand)/smartphone, you depend on the library to get to this, whereas your colleages can be surfing their book while they're standing in line at lunch. it's not as big of a problem as when i was in college, but inequalities are worst for the worst-off.
I work at the +UofM and am part of this project. The reasons for someone to author such a text are no different than for those who volunteer their time or write open source software: they want to help. To the question of quality, that's a primary reason we are creating this catalog: to help drive the review process that we think is critically important for open source text adoption. The editions piece is also a part of it, though in a slightly different way. If properly licensed (+Creative Commons is best), the texts can be modified by the faculty member and made better for their particular learning environment. The students pay less (either free for the electronic version or minimal for a printed copy through the UofM Bookstore) and receive a better text for the course they are taking.
+Brian Ropers-Huilman , thanks for commenting in! is the plan to have texts be "solid" at the beginning of the semester, and not change as you go along, or is there a way to accommodate the students who do have to purchase the printed version, but then don't get any /ad hoc/ notations, omissions, restructuring? this was the only concern we had when i was part of a team looking at a dynamic textbook for a GenChem course. if we'd have gone to one (we did not), students would have paid a fraction ($40 for a b/w copy, if i remember correctly) for their Chem 101 text (most are around $120)... but we would not have been able to be truly /dynamic/, since updates would be unevenly applied across ebook/print. thoughts?
I always thought the subscription access would be a better business model for everyone. With the subscription model, the contributors get paid, the students get a reduced price, and everyone is happy. If a student does decide they need a full version instead of a rental, they could always buy one.
I'm in favor of it. One of my classes already used a online textbook for no cost and we managed just fine. Textbooks cost to much, and no valuable new information is added with every subsequent edition anyways. Best of luck to them.
+Nic Hammond, there's a difference between the open source textbooks that we are cataloging and a dynamic textbook that you're talking about. Our texts are complete and static. However, based on the license, a faculty member may choose to make changes. In that case, the text would be a new derivative work and would be issued it's own ISBN #. It's really no different from software: most people have a word processor. Version 1 is complete as is, but version 1.1 is slightly different, though also complete as is.
+Brian Ropers-Huilman then that's what we ended up doing at #BU with a (previously canadian-only) Mahaffey text for GenChem. We removed chapters, re-organized and it was provided with a new ISBN and MUCH cheaper than anything we'd previously done. I used the ebook version a lot, so that i didn't have to carry the text around with me, but the interface was agonizingly slow to move around in, especially on a small laptop screen. I hope you've better luck with that.
Only the most advanced courses require bleeding edge material, and I think every rational educator on the planet is keenly aware of that. An introduction to computer programming course need not contain detailed information about the latest optimization schemes. In fact, it probably shouldn't mention them at all. If, for, and while loops will explode enough people's brains to keep them busy throughout their undergraduate education.

For the classical sciences (and their engineering applications) you're looking at the same sort of picture. My grandfather taught fluid mechanics for thirty years, and retired about 23 years ago. Fox and McDonald's third edition (Fluids text) was sent to him as a complimentary text to try and get it onto his syllabus in the mid-80s. Here I am, in 2012, taking the very same course out of the 8th edition. Not a single thing has changed in the text, save for the example illustrations in each chapter's introduction and the rearrangement of the problems at the end of each chapter. The same is true for the text we used in Thermodynamics.

Justification for the $200+ the school bookstore wishes to charge for these texts simply does not exist.
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