Open source textbooks on the way

California universities to produce 50 open-source textbooks
[Via Ars Technica]

California Governor Jerry Brown gave his pen a workout yesterday. In addition to signing legislation prohibiting social network snooping by employers and colleges, he also signed off on a proposal for the state to fund 50 open source digital textbooks. He signed two bills, one to create the textbooks and the other to establish a California Digital Open Source Library to host them, at a meeting with students in Sacramento.

According to a legislative summary, the textbook bill would “require the California Open Education Resources Council to determine a list of 50 lower division courses in the public postsecondary segments for which high-quality, affordable, digital open source textbooks and related materials would be developed or acquired.” The council is to solicit bids to produce these textbooks in 2013. The bill makes clear that the council has the option to use “existing high-quality digital open source textbooks and related materials” if those materials fit the requirements.

The law specifies that the textbooks must be placed under a Creative Commons license, allowing professors at universities outside of California to use the textbooks in their own classrooms. The textbooks must be encoded in XML, or “other appropriate successor format,” to facilitate re-use of the materials.

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With California producing perhaps 50 different text books, we may begin to see a real disruption in the publishing industry. It will also be interesting to see what happens in other states such as Texas that usually mandate some sort of “Evolution is just a theory”  addition to textbooks.

With a Creative commons license, Texas could just add any old sort of this it wanted to. So the Book Board in Texas and other states could more easily produce textbooks that teach non-science in science classes.

I wonder what the outcome of that would be? Would the state then prevent schools from using say the California edition? How would they prevent someone from using the California edition? What would happen to local control of the schools?

I think we might see some interesting events ply out here, as the publishing industry begins to unwind and state control of textbooks becomes disrupted.