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OpenStax: Disrupting the College Textbook Market with Free Faculty-Authored Textbooks

CCNMTL has been experimenting with various formats of electronic texts since 1999. From Multimedia Study Environments such as Frontiers of Science to iBooks QMSS e-Lessons and the Major Minor training environment, the organization has pushed for the innovative use of electronic texts and examined their impact on teaching and learning in the university classroom. For that reason, Rice University's OpenStax is a very exciting development.

OpenStax College is a non-profit textbook publishing initiative led by Rice University designed to improve student access to quality learning materials. OpenStax College is similar to Rice University’s Connexions website - an open access repository of educational materials.

According to Richard Baraniuk, director of OpenStax College, the project is a focused effort to create open-access textbooks that are professionally sourced and free of charge. A current goal of the project is to create free, publisher quality, open-access textbooks for the 20 most influential college course subjects.

Currently, high-quality, faculty produced, peer reviewed and community edited textbooks in Physics, Sociology, Biology, Concepts of Biology, and Anatomy and Physiology are available to students for free. Many more books are in development and will be available soon.

Under the Creative Commons license, books are available through the OpenStax website in PDF, HTML and EPUB formats. Some books, like College Physics, are also available as interactive textbooks through the iBookstore for $4.99.

Offered for free (or a fraction of the cost of traditional text books) OpenStax College believes their textbooks are as good as any professionally published textbook. OpenStax hopes to demonstrate that reduced and subsidized production costs help students save money and may be a great compliment to a university course as an institutionally adopted, required, or optional text. OpenStax textbooks provide another alternative in the arena of textbook publishing and information access to traditional education models; one as powerful and disruptive as MOOCS continue to be for traditional online learning.