David Wiley makes some important points about why we need consider adopting Open Textbooks.
On several occasions I have seen students enroll in classes, pay the tuition and fees, and then neglect to purchase the texts because of the high costs. Obviously this puts the students at a disadvantage when it comes to learning the content. It is not uncommon for two or three textbooks to be assigned for a single class, resulting in the textbooks costs exceeding the course tuition.
We hear a lot about open educational resources these days: open source, open content, open textbooks, open licensed, and so on. When something is made “open” others are free to use it. However, that does not mean the owner has given up their intellectual property rights. Copyright is still retained by the author of the media.
When adopting open content we need to read carefully the licensing options: Creative Commons offers several scenarios: CC BY you can copy and share it but give credit to the author, CC BY-NC copy and use it with credit to owner but only for non commercial purposes, CC BY-NC-SA gives permission to use and re-purpose (make images into video, or video into digital texts, etc.) as long as it is for noncommercial purposes and you license your work in the same way (pass it on). Creative Commons isn’t the only open licensing option out there, but it keeps things relatively simple for most purposes.
Open Textbooks are not necessarily Open Source – that is, they may not be a collaborative work where anyone can jump in and make a contribution. When selecting a text, most educators are concerned that the authors are leaders and experts in their field and that other experts have reviewed the text for accuracy.
Textbook publishers like Flatworld Knowledge have begun to offer open texts for sale. So how does this work? The texts are open licensed – so are available to share without charge in their digital form. Your students may link to the text online (usually in HTML or PDF format), access the content at any time and print it out if they like. The publisher offers printed versions as well as e-reader (Kindle, Nook) along with ancillary materials for a price – oftentimes at a fraction of the cost of a traditional textbook.
For more information regarding open texbooks check out the College Open Textbooks site and Educause – 7 Things You Should Know About Open Textbook Publishing.