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Sun Founders' Push For Open Source Education 169

Posted by kdawson
from the network-is-the-textbook dept.
theodp writes "Unfortunately for textbook publishers, Scott McNealy has some extra time on his hands since Oracle acquired Sun and put him out of a job. The Sun co-founder has turned his attention to the problem of math textbooks, the price of which keeps rising while the core information inside of them stays the same. 'Ten plus 10 has been 20 for a long time,' McNealy quips. 'We are spending $8 billion to $15 billion per year on textbooks' in the US, he adds. 'It seems to me we could put that all online for free.' McNealy's Curriki is an online hub for free textbooks and other course material. Others hoping to bring elements of the Open Source model to the school textbook world include Vinod Khosla (who co-founded Sun with McNealy), whose wife Neeru heads up the CK-12 Foundation, which has already developed nine of the core textbooks for high school."
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Sun Founders' Push For Open Source Education

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  • by iceaxe (18903) on Monday August 02, 2010 @06:57PM (#33117344) Journal

    $8-15 billion wants to be free?

    • Re:Information... (Score:5, Informative)

      by grcumb (781340) on Monday August 02, 2010 @07:39PM (#33117756) Homepage Journal

      $8-15 billion wants to be free?

      Yes, but...

      Important distinction: You don't put stuff online for free, you make it free when you put it online. I work for a 'free' legal information service that spends hundreds of thousands of dollars a year being Free. People give us money because they understand that if ignorance of the law is no excuse, then free access to legal materials is kind of an important corollary.

      McNealy's right - there are tons of good reasons to make educational materials available online, free of charge. It will take a considerable investment to do so.

      • Re:Information... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by HungryHobo (1314109) on Monday August 02, 2010 @08:04PM (#33117986)

        This one's sat at the back of my mind ever since I read Feynmans account of reviewing math books.

        I mean for some things like history every country/area would want significantly different books to focus on local history etc but how is it that basic math books haven't been supplanted by a handful of public domain high quality books?
        of course I know the answer is that companies making thin margins printing public domain books don't have so much money to spend on guys in suits to go around and convince the people in charge to use their textbooks.

        I know how terrible some of the schoolbooks are yet they get chosen by schools year after year.

        • by rolfwind (528248)

          I always thought the colleges were accomplices as it was another source of revenue for them having an on-campus book store without raising tuition.

          Schools I'm not so sure, as they often have to answer to their state capital although I'm sure there are kickbacks there as well (like the annual chocolate selling scheme and/or gift catalog is one major kickback to the school).

        • Re:Information... (Score:4, Informative)

          by WillDraven (760005) on Monday August 02, 2010 @10:02PM (#33118852) Homepage

          This one's sat at the back of my mind ever since I read Feynmans account of reviewing math books.

          I was curious about this so i googled around and came across a copy here [textbookleague.org]. It seems that not a day goes by in which I fail to see more evidence reinforcing my decision to home-school.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Belial6 (794905)
            Interesting reading. Hardly surprising. Watching a friends 9 year old daughter fail at adding 13 + 0 recently, is the kind of thing that reinforces my decision to home-school.
            • by orasio (188021)

              That girl was just being a good Christian. That "zero" thing is an invention from the DEVIL!
              My minister says that it was made by Osama's great-great-daddy, an arab, and we all know they are all agents of the devil.

            • by tehcyder (746570)

              Watching a friends 9 year old daughter fail at adding 13 + 0 recently, is the kind of thing that reinforces my decision to home-school.

              Gosh, amazing how your friend never noticed that during any of the quality time he spent with her.

        • by wisty (1335733)

          Which high-quality public domain books are those?

          The book makers don't just make books. They screen them, and educate the school boards, so the schools don't waste students' time with crappy, outmoded texts.

          In a similar vein, old drugs are often better then new ones (in some cases), but nobody helps practicing doctors get educated on which old drugs to prescribe. Whereas there's lots of good educational information on new (albeit expensive) ones.

  • Maybe they could add (Score:4, Informative)

    by bugs2squash (1132591) on Monday August 02, 2010 @07:03PM (#33117428)
    Some of Benjamin Crowell's [lightandmatter.com] work, of which I am a fan.
  • Downloaded it directly and reading it on my iPad.
    Looks nice, and very readable... will be nice to refresh my knowledge.
    The effort to reduce cost of schooling in general is admirable and book publishers are a leech on society so I hope McNealy and Khosla are successful.

    • by kroyd (29866) on Monday August 02, 2010 @07:16PM (#33117542)
      Another quite good book on statistics is Edward Tufte's "Data Analysis for Politics and Policy", which is posted at http://www.edwardtufte.com/tufte/dapp/ [edwardtufte.com]

      (All the examples are real life examples, often quite important ones as well.)

    • by PsychicX (866028)
      Classic Sun style move. There are plenty of open source textbook efforts out there. Instead of contributing to them, start a new effort, pull a bunch of media hype, and generally sabotage everyone else without even acknowledging them -- all while providing mediocre results. Sun did it for twenty years and I guess it's a McNealy signature.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Actually, it is VERY important that there be more than one textbook for each topic-grade level combination.

        Competition will be important for:

        * Quality
        * Differing viewpoints
        * Different teaching styles
        * etc.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Indeed. Half of the reason book prices are so outrageous is because students for all practical purposes have to get the same book the professor demands. If I could shop around, I could get much better prices.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Hognoxious (631665)

          Indeed, one of my pals used to say that the best book on any subject is two books.

    • I've talked with them about an iPad app specifically for their content, and it's in the works.

  • K-12 level... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by starseeker (141897) on Monday August 02, 2010 @07:07PM (#33117456) Homepage

    Does anyone know of any pre-1923 (i.e. out of copyright) series of educational books for early education that could serve as the foundation for some "open source" textbooks?

    Perhaps Google's book scanning project will be digitizing some relevant books, or is there some other on-line resource? Ideally it would be the original books that would be scanned, to preclude any argument of copyright being held by re-publishers via minor changes.

    Surely for basic education technology won't have made much of a significant difference in content (I'm a big fan of old-school education at basic levels - calculators are to be used AFTER you learn the basics, not instead of)

    • by couchslug (175151)

      Tried the Prelinger Archive?

      http://www.archive.org/details/prelinger [archive.org]

    • Write your own.

      Early education has some pretty clear goalposts.
      Any teacher worth his salt (there are still a few, I assure you!) can write their own lesson plans. A year's worth of lesson plans bound together and typed up would be a ... get this ... textbook!

      Seriously.

      • by mangu (126918)

        Write your own.

        So we should all start reinventing the wheel from zero?

        Just to give you an example, many years ago I bought a wonderful book on statistics [google.com] in a used book store in London.

        This book is a classic, everybody who has read it says so. But it's out of print. And still in copyright.

        If I knew how to do it, I would gladly pay M. J. Moroney a good price for his book. But it's in copyright and out of print...

    • Does anyone know of any pre-1923 (i.e. out of copyright) series of educational books for early education that could serve as the foundation for some "open source" textbooks?

      Not sure when he was born, but there was this dude called Euclid or something.

      • by jd (1658)

        Archimedes' textbooks might be useful, too. No, wait, they don't teach calculus or combinatorics at that age. Sorry.

        • calculus

          Don't worry, both Newton and Leibniz lived well before the cut-off date for copyright, as well. (They even died long enough ago for the current copyright terms to expire, though the growing copyright terms might soon fix that.)

          • by jd (1658)

            Is it true that Congress is going to change copyright to expire 75 years after cryogenic containment fails or the sun explodes, whichever happens later?

            • I wouldn't be surprised if Disney had already pre-written that legislation. :P

            • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

              by Mathinker (909784) *

              Is it true that Congress is going to change copyright to expire 75 years after cryogenic containment fails or the sun explodes, whichever happens later?

              Not going to happen.

              Politicians aren't stupid (about things like this), you know --- they can only do that once. In the "add twenty years every twenty years" scenario, the politicians end up earning a lot more.

      • by Marcika (1003625)
        You must admit that this [wikisource.org] is probably not the most straightforward way to teach basic geometry to an 11-year-old... (To a highly-intelligent and highly-motivated adult, maybe -- but then, those would already know it in most cases...)
        • You must admit that this [wikisource.org] is probably not the most straightforward way to teach basic geometry to an 11-year-old

          Great Ceasar's ghost, you're right - axiom 23(c)XVI says exactly that!

    • by Cyberax (705495) on Monday August 02, 2010 @08:48PM (#33118302)

      USSR science textbooks. Seriously, they are great (with some obvious exceptions :) ) and they are out of copyright.

      For example, Fichtenholz's "Differential and Integral Calculus" is THE best textbook on calculus ever created. It's so clear and written in so beautiful language that I had actually re-read it just for fun. I don't know if there are translations into English, alas.

      Landau and Lifshitz's "Course of Theoretical Physics" is the one of the best reference books for the modern physics, and it's available in English. It's out of copyright but its translations might be copyrighted.

      I'm certain it's possible to create a decent course on math/physics without much problem. Also, other countries should also have a lot of good material.

      It'd be different for the modern fast-moving fields of biology, chemistry, etc. But there's no reason for math/physics books to change every year (or even every decade).

      • For example, Fichtenholz's "Differential and Integral Calculus" is THE best textbook on calculus ever created. It's so clear and written in so beautiful language that I had actually re-read it just for fun. I don't know if there are translations into English, alas.

        Opportunity: produce one.

        • While I don't know the Russian language myself (although I'm 1/4 Russian), I'd be happy to chip in $100 towards a collective effort to have them translated.

      • by nbauman (624611) on Monday August 02, 2010 @10:58PM (#33119178) Homepage Journal

        One of the most popular science books ever printed was Physics for Entertainment, http://www.archive.org/details/physicsforentert035428mbp [archive.org] by Yakov Perelman http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yakov_Perelman [wikipedia.org]

        During the great days of the Soviet Union, the Russian Foreign Languages Printing House translated it into every major language, and sold copies at third-world prices. Those devious Communists -- promoting socialism by distributing cheap science books! Many scientists, engineers and mathematicians working today were inspired to go into their careers by this book.

        The most notable was Grigory Perelman (no relation) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grigory_Perelman [wikipedia.org] who solved the last step of the Poincaré conjecture and was eccentric even by Slashdot standards. Grigory's father gave him Physics for Entertainment.

        It used to sell for $3.99. Then it went out of print, and I tried to buy it, but it was going for $200. Now somebody reprinted it in a (probably) unauthorized edition, and it's also in the Internet Archive.

        The Soviet publishing house had an army of editors translating Russian books into all the world's languages, and they probably did Fichtenholz if it's that good.

        Dover Publications got started reprinting out-of-print and out-of-copyright science books, and as I recall, a lot of their trade list was Soviet books translated into English. At that time, the Soviet Union didn't believe in copyright, and they were happy to see their work reprinted. One thing the Soviets did well was science education. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sergei_Brin)

        You might check out the old Dover catalog to see if there are any out-of-copyright English translations. Scan them and put them on the Internet.

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          During the great days of the Soviet Union

          I'm pretty sure it's illegal to say that either in Russia or the US.

    • Does anyone know of any pre-1923 (i.e. out of copyright) series of educational books for early education that could serve as the foundation for some "open source" textbooks?

      Surely for basic education technology won't have made much of a significant difference in content (I'm a big fan of old-school education at basic levels - calculators are to be used AFTER you learn the basics, not instead of)

      I would think that the presentation would be too outdated. While in theory the content hasn't changed, the way things are described has changed enough to make it hard to follow. Though I suppose if you're just talking arithmetic, with no word descriptions, that hasn't changed much.

  • by jDeepbeep (913892) on Monday August 02, 2010 @07:08PM (#33117466)
    The reception to this effort will be especially positive after the Higher Education Opportunity Act [uwire.com] goes into effect (requiring a list of changes for a new edition of a textbook showing how it differs from the older edition). As it currently stands, the author could change a few equations, and add a couple graphs, and call it a new edition.
    • by hedwards (940851)
      It's worse than that. Often times they'd do something asinine and pointless like making some of the picture people of color or in wheel chairs and pass it off as being sensitive to divers communities. Never mind the fact that apart from changing the names and the pictures nothing else was changed.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Urza9814 (883915)

      As it currently stands, the author could change a few equations, and add a couple graphs, and call it a new edition.

      Or they can just do nothing at all and call it a new edition. They can literally throw on a different cover and call it a different edition. I've seen quite a few "international editions" that don't have a single difference except the cover art. Sometimes it's not even different art, it just has "international edition, not for sale in the US" stamped on it in big red letters. And it's paperback instead of hardcover...which I highly prefer anyway.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Niris (1443675)
        Yeah I've noticed this with a few different books. Last Java book I had to buy for school had an International edition that just had a forward that was a few pages long so the page numbers didn't line up, but everything else was spot on. Also cost about 100 dollars less and shipped from Malaysia :D
        • by Urza9814 (883915)

          Yea, nobody will buy back the international editions, but when you're paying $20 instead of $100, it's still a better deal. Plus you can still sometimes sell them through friends, facebook, craigslist, etc.

      • by MattskEE (925706)

        The international editions are a completely different thing from them coming out with near-identical "new editions".

        In many countries they cannot afford to buy textbooks at the price that Americans do, so the publisher will make a version that is cheaper to produce (paperback, lower quality printing) and charge less for it. The publisher profits because once they have payed for the creation, editing, typesetting, etc. they need to achieve the maximum profit with respect to production and distribution costs

        • by glomph (2644)

          This is more like the concept behind DVD-region codes. Which are generally unpopular outside the actual media industry itself.

  • But wait... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Just_Say_Duhhh (1318603) on Monday August 02, 2010 @07:09PM (#33117488)

    That would make it much harder for me, as an educator, to require my students to use a textbook written by one of my colleagues, who just happens to require his students to use the textbook I wrote (because, of course, it would be unethical to require your students to purchase your own textbook.

    Once we have that tidy arrangement going, we merely have to make minor changes to the texts (new pictures - you know, the important stuff), and then obsolete the previous editions.

    Mr. McNealy, you already got your payday - why are you trying to prevent me from getting mine?

    • by hedwards (940851)
      Unethical, I assume that you're not really a teacher and that you haven't gone to college. It happens far more often than it should. And it's definitely not a new occurrence, my parents told me about it happening to them back in the 60s. Which I imagine was hardly the first time it happened. Failing to pay enough for workers tends to lend itself well to that sort of entrepreneurial spirit.
      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Failure to pay enough?
        If the pay was too low they would find other jobs, that is just a scam. Happened to me once, we went and complained to the ombudsman who got us a good deal of the money back. She got a mark against her that would come up in any tenure preceding.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jd (1658)

          If the pay was too low --- ummm, the pay isn't a hell of a lot more than burger-flippers get, for many teaching jobs. My first professional software engineering job paid more than my father's senior lecturer job at one of Britain's top Universities. Difference? He wanted to teach and he wanted to research. Those were his life-blood. When he retired (and he only semi-retired at that) he continued teaching and researching, just on his own time and out of his own house. Most people thought he'd die rather than

          • by h4rr4r (612664)

            Someone like that is not going to "work somewhere else" if they get paid too little. If they can keep a roof over their heads and food on the table, the rest of the world be damned.

            Which means they are being paid enough. Jobs only pay enough to fill them, if the jobs are filled they pay enough.

            • But "filled" covers quite a range, don't you think?

            • Re:But wait... (Score:4, Insightful)

              by jd (1658) <imipak&yahoo,com> on Monday August 02, 2010 @09:22PM (#33118552) Homepage Journal

              Depends on how you define "enough" and "filled". Classrooms are often understaffed and a healthy teacher getting good nutrition and good access to fresh material will teach better than an unhealthy teacher who survives on Burger King and hasn't seen a new idea in a decade.

              I have a preference for a well-educated populace, with "well-educated" being defined as being the least-educated can function well in multiple branches of society (ie: nobody is deprived of a choice in life through circumstance), the average person has the ability to get into a middle-of-the-road University, and the brightest person is never deprived of the opportunity to learn, with the additional proviso that all people have the necessary knowledge, skills and means to make choices that are sensible for them if they so wish.

              It is impossible to have a well-educated populace if you work purely on paying the least that will fill fewest positions you can get away with. In fact, it's almost impossible to educate people at all like that. It is impossible to have a well-educated populace if you work purely on paying the least but have just enough positions to actually teach sensibly. You will, however, likely get the least-able and even some of the average-able up to par.

            • by hedwards (940851)
              But, you get what you paid for, and that's the ultimate problem. You can get security officers here for a little over $10 hour if they're non-union, but even if you pay the union rate, you're not going to get any meaningful quality.

              You'll get people that are unambitious, probably not willing to get extra training and almost certainly not provided with the resources to do a good job.

              Teaching is similar in that respect, you might fill the position, but if you're not paying enough to get qualified, compe
        • by Qzukk (229616)

          If the pay was too low they would find other jobs

          Those who can, get six figure jobs doing. Those who can't, teach.

      • by Trepidity (597)

        The conflict of interest is pretty obvious, but it also makes some sense--- if a physics prof is going to choose a physics book to teach from, why would he choose any book besides the one he wrote himself? Of all the books out there, it's presumably the one that: 1) he is most familiar with; and that 2) covers the material closest to the way he wants to cover it in his class.

        The advantages of using your own textbook are high enough that I've had profs actually assign their own unpublished book for free (sen

        • by Belial6 (794905)
          Giving you a free PDF is not unethical. Charging you a second time for their information on the subject when you have already paid for their service IS.
    • by Krahar (1655029)
      If you went to the trouble of writing a textbook, obviously you will want to use that one. It has exactly the stuff you think is important, in a format that supports your lectures and if you don't think it improves on whatever else is out there, then probably you have better things to do than to write a textbook on your own - you'd just use the better one already written. If you think academics write books to obtain money for themselves, then you are mistaken - it takes a lot of time and pays poorly indeed
    • If a school district decides to commission a textbook as a work made for hire, and pays the authors handsomely, and then makes the work free, it can be a win-win. The authors get a guaranteed amount, but they won't collect royalties going forward. The schools don't go broke buying expensive textbooks, and poorer districts can benefit. Textbook writers can be booked again when revisions are made. Of course, it will be possible to identify people that make less money. That's life.
    • by Niris (1443675)
      It may be unethical to have students use a text book written by you, but it happens a fair bit. My political science class had a book written by the instructor, as did a programming class I took (though that one was easy enough to not use since the language was very publicly written about online). It's just another giant scam that adds to the college bullshit.
  • by DesScorp (410532) <DesScorp@NOsPam.Gmail.com> on Monday August 02, 2010 @07:12PM (#33117506) Homepage Journal

    The whole textbook business is one of the biggest scams in education, and it only gets worse in college. New editions are churned out for the college market simply to ensure a fresh revenue stream for all involved. I think in 95% of math, science, lit, and history courses, you could go to Dover Publishers (the people that basically make their living reprinting stuff in the public domain), get the books in paperback, and actually get better textbooks in the end. I have a weird hobby of collecting pre-1950 textbooks, and frankly I think kids learned "more" back then from their textbooks than they do today. Obviously, some knowledge has been added here and there, but I've got an 8th grade science textbook that does a much better job imparting the principles of physics and chemistry to kids because of the practical examples used.

    I have to disagree with McNealy's push to go all-online though. There's no substitute for having a physical book at times. We just need to get off of the "new textbook" gravy-train.

    • by Nemyst (1383049)
      It's not mutually exclusive. Combine online availability with a printing service at minimal pricing and you have something flexible and easier on the chequebooks. I can easily spend in the hundreds in books every semester; any improvement will be a good improvement.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by turing_m (1030530)

      I have to disagree with McNealy's push to go all-online though. There's no substitute for having a physical book at times. We just need to get off of the "new textbook" gravy-train.

      That's what printers are for. I suppose you could also get a more rugged book produced by getting it done at a print shop. But a manilla folder of printouts would accomplish the same thing, really.

      The other benefit of going open source is that bugs can get fixed very easily. And the number of people capable of fixing spelling

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by TooMuchToDo (882796)

        CK-12, the nonprofit listed in the summary, makes "flexbooks". They're basically PDFs, which of course they allow you to print out. Total cost for books? Whatever it costs to print the PDFs.

    • by rolfwind (528248)

      at least in school (can't speak for higher education). The have softcover booklets, with about 8-10 weeks worth of material. That means they are about 100 pages long, maybe shorter. Plus, they contain the practice problems and you can write in them. I never understood the practice of carry these heavy tomes called textbooks around, especially even after a year, that half of it is never relevant to the course in many instances. You also get to keep the booklets and don't have to go through the nonsense

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I never understood the practice of carry these heavy tomes called textbooks around, especially even after a year, that half of it is never relevant to the course in many instances.

        Heavy, well made textbooks last longer. So in the old days, kids could inherit their older sister's textbook, who inherited it from her older brother etc., or in fact communal textbooks could be kept by the school and distributed to the same grade year in, year out.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tyrione (134248)
      Agreed. I'm trying to see how they've managed to take a Calculus book I bought in 1987 and by 2000 the same book with some Calculator additions, change in color examples, a pointless DVD/CD to some crappy Windows Only Software program and extra problem sets managed to go from $50 to $150. I'm sorry, but the technology to make books has actually decreased in cost, yet the cost for the actual product has tripled, in just over a decade? Now I see Physics for Scientists and Engineers using worse materials [thin
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bcrowell (177657)

      In my opinion, the NY Times article focuses mostly on aspects of the free textbook movement that have been the least successful. It focuses on K-12, but actually there are very few high-quality, free K-12 textbooks; most of the high-quality, free texts are at the college level, and especially at the graduate level. This is probably partly because the opportunities for profit in a non-free book get thinner and thinner as you go to higher and higher levels, and also partly because most states' public K-12 sy

  • To be fair, I've heard stuff about open-source textbooks for a while. This isn't really a "Scott McNealy and his friends" idea, more of a "Scott McNeally showed up to put some weight behind his version of an idea that other people have already been working hard to do."
    http://www.google.com/search?q=open+source+textbooks [google.com]

    I also thought that the 10 + 10 = 20 example was a bit simplistic, since textbooks get updated frequently. Although, to be fair, if people can create open-source textbooks, it's a benef
    • by jedidiah (1196)

      > Uh, what? It's weird to act like Sun's decline was due to the fact that they went "too little, too late"
      > with open-source. Open Source was never going to save Sun no matter when they "switched over".

      Trying to ignore x86 is generally what DOOMED Sun and allowed for the rise of Free Unix.

      They tried to fight the future and it ran them over like a freight train.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      To me, it seems Sun's problem was that they didn't really 'get' how to foster a FOSS project and build a community (it takes more than just hiring Ian Murdock). Sun had other problems, but being smarter and more proactive about FOSS could have helped, although I'm not sure how much of an impact it would have had.
      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Linux was announced to the world in 1991 with the following announcement:
        I'm doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won't be big and professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones.

        SunOS started in 1982, that means they had 9+ years to get their OS into the hands of kids using x86. They failed and it killed them. They might not have seen it coming, no one really did, but it still did them in.

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          Heck, solaris started in 1992 had they made it FREE software to begin with it would have prevented linux killing them.

  • Will they just drop support for an old edition of a book on a whim a la Sun? Or will they do the right thing and not follow in the publishers' footsteps?

  • Perhaps McNearly should lobby for a decent textbook on how to use apostrophes.

    • "Push" is a noun in the headline. That is, it is about a push, by the Sun founders, for open source education.

      Also, the editor usually writes the headline, not the submitter.

      If you're going to post flamebait, at least try to be correct.

    • I see McNealy and Khosla mentioned. That would be founders, and their push for Open Source Education is described.
      • I see McNealy and Khosla mentioned.

        [citation needed]

        • Scott McNealy has some extra time on his hands since Oracle acquired Sun and put him out of a job.

          Others hoping to bring elements of the Open Source model to the school textbook world include Vinod Khosla (who co-founded Sun with McNealy)

          It's amazing what basic reading skills can do. If textbooks weren't so expensive, perhaps your school could have given you those skills or at least the ability to use your browser's built in search feature to search for 'McNealy' and 'Khosla'

    • by Smallpond (221300)

      Perhaps McNearly should lobby for a decent textbook on how to use apostrophes.

      There's already a good resource [angryflower.com] available.

  • When it comes to college level stuff, mathematics has more free books available online than any other discipline.

    Yet, most universities use either James Stewart or one other book for calculus.

    Why? I really don't know. I asked a math grad student friend of mine, and he said it ultimately boiled down to politics: Calculus level textbooks are decided by a committee, and the professor teaching it only has some say - and it's hard to convince a committee. As hundreds of students will take calculus every semester, they need the warm and fuzzy feeling an established textbook gives them.

    To be fair, the mathematics departments are also perhaps the most likely to use free/cheap textbooks (compared to sciences and engineering). This usually happens for upper division courses, though.

    • However Stewart is a great calc book. Got mine second hand for about $10NZD and will never let it go. We were told that any edition will do.
  • Hong Kong's solution (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 02, 2010 @09:19PM (#33118522)

    http://www.legco.gov.hk/yr97-98/english/panels/ed/papers/ed1601-3.htm [legco.gov.hk]

    The Education Department (ED) issues a Recommended Textbook List. If the publishers want to be on that list, they have to reduce the unnecessary revisions. That seems to work extremely well:

    >According to the Consumer Council's surveys, unnecessary textbook revisions have been greatly reduced in recent years, dropping from 21% in 1992 (six out of 28 textbooks) to 2% in 1996 (one out of 44 textbooks). From a random selection of revised textbooks in 1997, no unnecessary revision was detected (out of the eight sets of books examined, revisions to two were found necessary and those to the remaining six quite necessary).

  • The headline of the article has a totally random trailing apostrophe after "founders". Why?
  • It should be pointed out that at least for the HS high school market, the math content of the textbook is only one aspect upon which sales are based.

    Most importantly, in most states and provinces, there is an approval process for textbooks that measures dozens if not hundreds of parameters including binding quality, use of names in examples (should reflect diverse population), male/female ratios in illustrations, avoidance of culturally specific contexts in problems, etc.

    It can easily cost tens, if not over

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