Open-source textbook content

I watched a great TED talk today on open-source learning modules. If you are a science or technology teacher, I highly recommend this talk and looking into the Connexions website (http://cnx.org).  At Connexions, authors contribute content licensed under Creative Commons. Anyone can take that content and re-mix it, combine it, and make it into a collection that meets their specific requirements  – which then can be published as an online or print-on-demand textbook. If you are a student looking for different ways to learn The idea of being able to customize textbooks to the specific requirements of a course is fascinating. As an added benefit, the cost to the student is significantly lower than the cost of conventional textbooks – mostly because the publishing houses have been removed from the equation. So, will this model replace conventional textbooks? In science and technology, maybe. By far, the majority of featured content is science releated – specifically math, physics, and computer science.  Techology could become a big winner, as the conventional textbooks are often out-of-date before they make it to print. The project has been ongoing for 10-years, but the really great content is limited to only a few choice subjects.  Why hasn’t this idea spread? I’m left wondering about the incentives that authors have for creating content. Money motivates. Publishing houses actively recruite authors where they see a need and opportunity to make money. Why would a professor provide the content for free when a publishing house will pay them for it? If the reasons for slow-uptake are not economic, then what are they? What’s your thought?

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