Billionaires Back Free Textbooks

Jonathan Bean

In 2009, I blogged on the budding movement for open-source and commercially free textbooks coming on the market. The latter vendors often hope to make money by charging for the printing of online texts. The movement has moved ahead sluggishly with little financial support. Enter two tech billionaires: the founders of Sun Microsystems--Scott McNealy and Vinod Khosia. They are devoting their philanthropy to replacing the $200 textbook with free alternatives AND getting these texts accredited by California and Texas, the two "gatekeepers" of the textbook publishing market (K-12). Look for rapid movement at the K-12 level and some progress in the college textbook market. Whether the textbook oligopoly can block competition with political influence is another matter. For more, see http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/01/technology/01ping.html?src=busln and http://www.curriki.org/xwiki/bin/view/Main/WebHome

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