Letter: Open source textbooks would reduce student costs

As the recent article “Rising costs of textbooks prove to be concerning” (April 30) pointed out, students are paying more for education — and textbooks continue to be a rising cost. The average student spends around $900 a year on textbooks alone, which only adds to difficulty of being able to afford college.

But as the article also points out, there are solutions! Open textbooks are published under an open copyright license and are freely available online and can be downloaded to laptops or tablets at a low cost, and print copies can be sold in the bookstore for $20 to $40. Open textbooks reduce student spending 80 percent on average over traditional textbooks, which means up to $10,000 in savings for a typical 100-student class.

The bills mentioned in the article, SB 1052 and SB 1053 authored by state Senator Darrell Steinberg, would create a grant program that would produce open textbooks for the 50 highest-enrollment introductory college courses in the state. These books are often the most expensive, and these courses are very large, so it would save the greatest number of students the most money.

This would be a small investment for a huge return. A similar program in Washington state saved students enough money on textbooks within the first year to offset the entire cost of creating the books! And this is an innovative approach to reduce costs that can continue reducing the cost of going to college for years after the books are made.

CalPIRG students just lobbied in Sacramento on behalf of this bill this weekend as an innovative program to address the high costs of getting a college education. Cal students can get involved by calling or emailing their representatives in support of this bill!

— Kat Lockwood
Berkeley