The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

Got a tip? Have something you need to tell us? Contact us

Loading Recent Classifieds...

Proposal would create online library for undergraduate course books

A bill that would fund a library containing open source textbooks for the 50 most popular lower division courses at state colleges and universities has been proposed by State Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg on Feb. 8.

In his proposal, students will be able to access and download texts online for free and purchase printed textbooks for only $20. Course material contributions from academics, nonprofits, Silicon Valley developers and the book publishing industry will be shared within the system.

The estimated cost of the bill is $25 million. Steinberg is seeking funding from the state of California or through educational grants, according to Mark Hedlund, spokesperson for Sen. Steinberg’s Capitol Office.

“With the annual cost of new textbooks averaging more than $1,200 for a typical college student, many have told us they’re forced to make very tough choices,” Hedlund said. “Students are dropping classes or limiting their course load because they can’t afford the required textbooks. Many have to work more hours at their jobs or take out more loans just to pay for textbooks.”

Hedlund said the proposal will support the Open Educational Resources concept, a program that grades K-12 use, to provide open, license-free educational course materials to students and teachers.

“Steinberg knows that with the skyrocketing costs of higher education, students are being squeezed,” Hedlund said. “While his priority is to reinvest in higher education as soon as budget constraints are eased, he’s been searching for ways to use the tools we have available now to try and ease the pressure.”

Tuition and fees aren’t the only problem, as textbook costs have multiplied about four times the rate of inflation, according to a study by the Student Public Interest Research Group, Hedlund said.

Hedlund mentioned several elements that the proposed bill will have, such as dramatically lowering the costs of books for college students, allowing faculty to use materials under a “creative commons” licensing process (several copyright licenses that allow the distribution of copyrighted works), and letting class materials be readily available through an open source library.

Several colleges and universities, such as MIT and Rice University, have already moved forward, on a limited scale, to provide digital textbooks and courseware (computer programs or materials designed for use in educational programs) via open source material, Hedlund added.

Nicole Acevedo, 19, a freshman, major undecided, said she is excited about the new prospect of having a open textbook resource system.

“I spent $300 on my textbooks,” she said. “To be able to download all my textbooks and course materials for free is a good idea and it will save students money. I will vote for Sen. Steingberg’s proposal.”

For each new text developed, the state will issue a Request for Proposal to invite faculty and publishers to develop open source texts that would be placed under a Creative Commons license. It will also require publishers to provide at least three free copies on reserve in campus libraries.

The bill SB 1052 became eligible for hearing this week. The Senate Education Committee will consider the bill sometime over the next several weeks. If the bill passes out of the policy and fiscal committee, it will be voted on by the entire Senate, then sent to the State Assembly for consideration. Once the bill passes both houses, it will be sent to the governor for signing and become law on Jan. 1, 2013, according to Hedlund.

More to Discover