Nonprofit Organizations Push Digital College Textbooks

Nonprofit Organizations Push Digital College Textbooks

A Sacramento, Calif. non-profit is working to provide free and low-cost digital textbooks to college students. And companies such as Apple are pressing ahead in the market.

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College students will no longer be out hundreds or even thousands of dollars for print textbooks every year. Instead, they’ll read e-textbooks at much less cost — or no cost at all.

That is the scenario promoted by e-textbook advocates. Sacramento, Calif., nonprofit Twenty Million Minds Foundation, which works to provide free and low-cost digital textbooks, is among those leading the charge.

“We’d like to see all community colleges and state colleges and universities use them,” said former California State Sen. Dean Florez. The ex-legislator is CEO of 20MM, which refers to the 20 million students in U.S. higher education.

The foundation is providing free e-textbooks at three California community colleges. It is working with academics to create a library of 25 open-source, lower-division books that professors can modify to fit their own classes. Currently offered are books in statistics, physics, ans sociology. Other subject areas are being developed.

The books can be read by students on the Internet, on PCs, or on mobile devices. The books can be printed and are permanently available.

“Our ultimate goal is for students to save billions of dollars on textbooks,” Florez said. “The average college student spends $1,300 a year on textbooks,” he said. “We see the savings as being significant.”

The nonprofit says it will raise and allocate $3 million for its e-library, and says it’s received promises of an additional $2 million in funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates, and William and Flora Hewlett foundations.

Promoters of the program say e-textbooks make it easier for students to learn. Students will do without books when the cost is too high.

“Many professors don’t recognize this, but many students simply don’t purchase assigned textbooks because of the cost,” said Charles Ginn, associate professor of psychology at University of Cincinnati in Ohio.