In the beginning of 2012, Rice University began producing open access textbooks through their OpenStax College initiative, funding it with a mix of grants and revenue from optional “add ons,” such as homework problem sets. So far, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 20 Million Minds, and the Maxfield Foundation have pledged to pay for five open source textbooks to be published.

The first two titles were created for introductory courses in physics and sociology. Since their earlier release this year, the textbooks have already been downloaded by more than 13,000 students. The next three books, which will cover anatomy and biology, are scheduled to be published in fall and winter 2012.

According to Mr. Baraniuk, founder of OpenStax College, their initiative is “trying to create the books that will save the most students the most money. The primary way that we selected the list of books to create is according to the total number of students enrolled in the U.S. in a given class, multiplied by the average book cost for those students.”

The OpenStax College textbooks have been adopted at universities including the College of William and Mary, in Virginia; Miami University, in Ohio; and the University of Massachusetts at Boston with the hope of saving one million students a total of $95-million within five years.

In addition, Mr. Baraniuk commented that the company has been in discussions with other organizations to support the creation of 20 more textbooks.

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