On September 28th, California Governor Jerry Brown signed both SB1052 and SB1053 into law, supporting the development of open source textbooks for the 50 most common undergraduate courses and a digital library to store those textbooks. Students, faculty, and textbook affordability advocates across the nation praised the governor’s endorsement of the bills, however there were some people who were upset by the decision: the Association of American Publishers (AAP).
Within a week after the bills were signed, the AAP produced a national press release to challenge the notion that the bills would provide students with free textbooks. They argued that there is no such thing as a free textbook and the 20 Million Minds Foundation (20MM), a non-profit dedicated to lower the cost of textbooks nationally, based its recent SB1052 and S1053 infographic on “voodoo math and trumped-up claims.” In addition, the AAP modified and released their own version of the 20MM infographic called “A Roadmap to Misleading Infographics.”
After the AAP released their statement and infographic, the 20MM Foundation responded:
- AAP: These “free” textbooks will, in fact, cost California taxpayers, including college students, tens of millions of dollars to develop, distribute and maintain.
20MM Response: WRONG. Publisher textbooks are already costing huge amounts of taxpayer dollars and offering a free version online will cost students nothing. Consider that the state of California already spends over $200 million dollars in taxpayer financed Cal Grant B funding (used primarily for textbooks) that pays for overpriced publisher textbooks that far exceed the average inflation rate growth in medical care, housing, food and other consumer items. In fact, according to the CA Legislative Analyst Office, total purchases of college textbooks for fiscal year 2013-14 is expected to be $1.7 billion alone—AND students are taxed on these textbooks –thus $67 million in taxes students are paying alone on top of the costs for these required overpriced textbooks.
- AAP: The initial funding is not going toward the creation of textbooks for “50 … courses” but the development of some unstated lesser number of “strategically selected textbooks.”
20MM Response: WRONG. The initial funding for the textbooks under the legislation goes directly toward the creation or purchase of open source textbooks that will be provided to students for free on the web or any internet device. The newly established California Open Education Resources Council, which has nine members drawn from the UC, CSU, and community college systems, will create and oversee the book approval process, including choosing the courses, then solicit bids to produce the textbooks in time for the 2013-2014 school year that will be paid directly out of the $10 million dollars allocated under the legislation. Important note for the publishers, they too can participate if they can make their content “cc-by” available and given the Council can also choose to use existing open source textbooks.
- AAP: No credible report or source supports the inflated, seven-year-old figures for student spending or textbook publishing touted by the infographic.
20MM Response: WRONG. The AAP wants you to believe that the stats are old and out dated but many of them are within the past three years and all trending reports indicate that textbook prices are getting more expensive. It is somewhat insulting that the AAP feels the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Student PIRGS and the College Board are all non-credible sources of information. Instead of presenting a bogus claim that our stats are non-credible and outdated, we challenge the AAP to prove that the trends are changing and textbooks are becoming more affordable. The truth is they are not becoming more affordable.
According to the 20MM Foundation, they will be releasing a new infographic soon to further address point-by-point the accusations issued by the AAP.
If you would like to see the full press release by the 20MM Foundation, you can visit: