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California lawmakers are sending Gov. Jerry Brown a package of bills that would allow college students to choose free online textbooks instead of costly printed ones for common undergraduate courses.

Senate Bills 1052 and 1053 by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg cleared the Legislature today, when the state Senate approved them with final votes.

The bills would create an online library of digital textbooks for the 50 most widely-taken lower division courses at the University of California, California State University and the state's community colleges. The project would get under way when state or private funding becomes available.

The digital texts would be "open-source," which means they are not copyrighted the same way traditional texts are, making them much less expensive. The texts are primarily available online; students can typically buy a print-out for around $20, about one-tenth the cost of many traditional textbooks.

"This is the new way to try to bring down the cost of instructional materials, by putting them in an open-source format," Steinberg said.

Publishing companies originally opposed the bills but removed their opposition, Steinberg said. Amendments removed a requirement that publishers provide free copies of textbooks in college libraries.


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