Sunday, May 10, 2009

California Open Textbook Initiative

I don't know if other people have heard about this one yet: California is pursuing open textbooks to help cut costs. I've been saying for a long time that the traditional textbook pricing model isn't really scalable, especially not for money-strapped urban school districts. So, it makes good sense that California would be looking to use free alternatives instead of paying premium prices for texts.

The cynic in me obviously worries that government bureaucratic processes will miss the point and ruin the whole exercise. Crowd-sourcing and open culture only work if you let the people in and let them self-govern to a degree. If the state of California tries to impose all sorts of oversights and restrictions and controls on the process, they will spend more money and end up with lower-quality books then if they just stuck with proprietary books.

I would be interested to hear if anybody knows anything about this California textbook project, and if there is anything that the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikibooks can do to get involved. I think we have a great infrastructure set up and a great environment for developing quality books for a great price, and it's that infrastructure that places like California need if they want to succeed in lowering the cost of education.

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