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Free Textbooks, Free Courses

September 19, 2008

Prof. R. P. McAfee, an economics professor at Cal Tech, made links between the textbook and the drug market:

both textbook publishers and drug makers benefit from the problem of “moral hazards” — that is, the doctor who prescribes medication and the professor who requires a textbook don’t have to bear the cost and thus usually don’t think twice about it.

“The person who pays for the book, the parent or the student, doesn’t choose it,” he said. “There is this sort of creep. It’s always O.K. to add $5.” (“Don’t Buy that Textbook, Download it Free” from New York Times)

In protest of the high-price trend in textbook market, Prof. McAfee puts his introductory economics textbook online for free access.

Other similar ideas are

  • Connexions, a non-profit textbook publishing project, launched by Prof. Richard G. Baraniuk of Rice University, which aims to bring textbooks into the Internet Age. Just as in the digital music world: rip, burn and mash.
  • Stanford Engineering Everywhere, a program offers online access to full courses in their engineering programs
  • the notable OpenCourseWare from MIT
  • and, finally, the big list of free online courses from top universities
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