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A package of bills aimed at expanding access to free digital textbooks for California college students advanced in the state Senate today.

The bills, by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, would create an online library of open-source course materials for use at California's public colleges and universities. Students could purchase a hard copy of the texts for about $20.

Steinberg says his measure is meant to lower the financial burden for students who can now pay $200 or more for a single book. Using an "Open Education Resources" system, he said on the floor today, would provide students with the "highest quality textbook at a fraction of the cost."  

"This is going to happen sooner or later, but as policy makers we have the ability to expedite this and to begin saving students and their families money in these most difficult times," the Sacramento Democrat said.  

Senate Bill 1052 starts the process of developing open-source college course materials for the 50 most widely taken lower division courses. A panel of faculty members from the University of California, California State University and California Community Colleges systems would be tasked with selecting the courses and launching a competitive bid process for contracts to produce the open-source course materials..

The bill was approved with bipartisan support, by a vote of 32-2. A companion measure creating the digital library for the materials also cleared the Senate, 33-2.  Both bills now advance to the Assembly.


Darrell Steinberg pushes 'open-source' online textbooks for Californians


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