California lawmakers pursue affordable textbooks on Internet


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California college students who have been hit by tuition increases may get a financial break from the state after lawmakers approved twin measures Wednesday to make textbooks more affordable.

The state Senate approved a bill that would seek competitive bids to create an Internet site where students could read textbooks from the 50 most popular classes for free and get print copies for $20 each. A separate measure would create a California Open Source Digital Library to house the textbooks.


Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said his two bills are needed because it costs an average of $1,000 a year for textbooks purchased by students of the California State University, University of California and California Community Colleges systems.

‘We can provide students in all three [college] systems with the highest quality textbooks at a fraction of today’s cost,’ Steinberg told his colleagues, who voted 32 to 2 to send SB 1502 and SB 1503 to the Assembly for consideration. Publishers, he charged, have a monopoly that allows them to charge ‘exorbitant’’ prices for textbooks.

One of the measures would create a California Open Education Resources Council to determine the 50 most widely taken lower division courses and review proposed textbooks and source material for the classes. The council would seek competitive bids from publishers, technology firms and nonprofit groups to provide Internet access to the textbooks. The measure was supported by all but two Republicans present.

‘We’re in the electronic age,’ said Sen. Tom Harman (R-Huntington Beach). ‘It’s time we have textbooks freely available or almost freely available to students.’


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--Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento