California passes bills to create open-source digital library for college textbooks

The state of California is on the verge of enacting legislation that would make college educations a bit more affordable for students and their parents.

The California State Senate today passed two bills, SB 1052 and SB 1053, designed to provide students at public postsecondary institutions with access to free digital textbooks for popular lower-division courses and to open source the curriculum to facility members.

The bills are said to create the nation’s first free open source digital library for college students and faculty. California Governor Jerry Brown’s signature is required before the bills are enacted into law.

“This is the first time government has come in with substantial dollars that match philanthropic efforts to create a library where students can access free textbooks and faculty can utilize their skills to remix, revise and repurpose these textbooks for their students,” said Dean Florez in a statement. Florez is president of the 20 Million Minds foundation, a nonprofit that works to reduce textbook costs for students.

Digital textbooks have been around for years, with companies ranging from Apple to Chegg providing students with digital alternatives to their hard-bound books. Under SB 1052, California, however, would establish a faculty-run council called the California Open Education Resources Council (COERC) to select and develop the free digital textbooks for students at state universities and community colleges. Companion bill SB 1053 would create an open source library to house the digital textbooks.

The 1052 bill passed the California Senate with 32-3, according to the state legislator’s website. The 1053 companion bill passed by the same margin.

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