The textbooks publishers have found a digital nightmare. Maybe is not right to talk about enemies but they are fearful opponents, indeed. Internet and access to new and portable technologies (laptops, tablets, smartphones…) have increased the usage of digital textbooks instead of printed and expensive unupdated encyclopedias.
Startups such as Boundless or BC Campus’ Opening Education project offer students and faculty digital textbooks under Creative Commons licenses that can be used wholly or partially at no costs, where traditional textbooks are usually expensive and unupdated most of the time.
As reported by TechCrunch, since April 2012 the Boston-based startup Boundless, founded by Ariel Diaz, Brian Balfour and Aaron Whitehas, have being fighting the oligopoly of old-school textbook publishers giving free alternatives to students and professors. So far, they released 18 open textbooks under the same license as Wikipedia (Attribution-ShareAlike). The subjects for these textbooks’ range from biology to economy and many topics in between. They work as alive producers of knowledge, offering extra sources such as quizzes, guides and extra sources through links to Creative Commons licensed sources.
As free textbooks, they don’t work in terms of expiration dates as can be found in other (paid) digital textbook options. Nonetheless, benefits for Boundless come from Premium features available for a cost. To access Boundlees users need to create an account on their website. Before that, this is the list of textbooks currently available.
In Canada, the government of British Columbia announced, in October 2012, their support to the creation of open textbooks for some of the coursers with the highest impact in the province’s public post secondary system.
BCcampus, a publicly funded organization using information technologies to connect expertise, programs and resources in post-secondary institutions in British Columbia is coordinating this project, as they have over 10 years of experience in this field. Opening Education program is preparing textbooks for approximately 200.000 students that will be available for free online, or at low-cost for printed versions.
The website created for the project started as a discussion board for people interested in open education, starting at Vancouver Opening Education (2011). Now, Opening Education is trying to engage British Columbia faculty, institutions and publishers to its project. So far, they have a list of links to find openly-licensed and free textbooks.