Rice University has announced plans to partner with the non-profit publisher OpenStax College to produce open access textbooks for several of their introductory courses. The books will cover sociology, anatomy, physics, and biology. The biology textbooks have been split into two separate versions, one for students majoring in biology and the other for non-majors.
Open access textbooks have been adopted slowly among professors for several reasons, such as the lack of peer-reviews and supplementary materials. OpenStax wishes to relieve those concerns by providing for both of those problems. Their first set of books have gone through an 18 month peer-review process by hired experts and they are partnering with for-profit companies to create optional supplementary material.
The textbooks will be freely available online for anyone around the world. Students and professors can download PDF versions of the textbooks or access them through mobile devices. Paper editions are also available, but they will be sold for the cost of printing. For example, the 600-page, full-color sociology textbook will sell for approximately $30. OpenStax believes that if they can capture 10 percent of the national market, the student savings could reach up to $90 million in the next five years.
The physics and sociology textbooks are planned to be released next month, while the anatomy and two remaining biology textbooks have been scheduled for a release date of Fall 2012. However, OpenStax does not want to stop there and plans to have free textbooks for the 20 most common college courses in the next five years.
OpenStax is funded by grants from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the 20 Million Minds Foundation and the Maxfield Foundation.
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