RobinHood_OA_OERIn looking at how books can be remixed, cut-up, recompiled, augmented I decided to enquire into a specific area of educational publishing the standardised textbook. Specifically I wanted to see what European examples of Open Educational Resources (OER) services were available in this area.

So far I’m still on the lookout, in the universities and HE sectors there are a good number of services but as yet I haven’t found any European commercial OA providers. One example educational research body which covers textbooks is the  Joint Information Research Council (JISC) in the UK, which has been supporting ground breaking OER research across at least fifty institutions. You can see the results of this three year programme which is just coming to an end this October (2012) on their Evaluation Toolkit site.

When you look over to the US you see a completely different picture with commercial providers adopting OA open business models and state legislatures passing bills to make Community College (pre-degree two year study HE colleges) textbooks as free or low costs CC textbooks.

The shift over to OA on textbooks is so complete that a US educational standards body (State Instructional Materials Review Association SIMRA) has renamed its oversight committee from the ‘textbooks’ to ‘instructional materials’ group as an indication of the digital switch over.

In California, State Governor, Jerry Brown, recently signed a bill (27 Sept) to support free and low cost textbooks licensed under Creative Commons.

In the private sector Flat World Knowledge have developed a business around OA textbooks (oops instructional materials) for the Community College sector, with free to use books online and minimal charges for purchases and college licenses. Books are on average 80% lower in price than high profit margin commercial publishers.

What is clear is that the scarcity economic model practiced by publishers is over and that in a European context we’ll be seeing a further wave of universities, educational bodies and private companies offering OA instructional materials textbooks.

News source on the US textbook changes
SIIA – The Software & Information Industry Association is the principal trade association for the software and digital content industry.

Other links
PIRG 2010 report found open textbooks reduced prices by 80%. PIRG (Public Interest Research Groups).

Simon Worthington

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Street MBA, technologist, art freaker, dreampunk, organiser, media activist, publisher and book nut. Co-founder of Mute Magazine Skilled as an artist at Falmouth Art School, The Slade School of Fine Art, UCL, London and at CalArts, Valencia, California.

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