Free Digital-Textbook Project Drives Down Cost of College

Lauren Williams's picture

A state-funded project to create low-cost digital textbooks for community-college courses has saved students about $5 million in just a few years, advocates say.

The figure represents the cost difference between commercial textbooks, which can cost hundreds of dollars apiece, and free digital books written by Washington faculty members that cover the same subjects.

The project, called the Open Course Library, has employed dozens of Washington community-college faculty members to create textbooks and other curriculum materials for 81 of the most commonly taken community-college classes — like psychology, biology and precalculus. The materials are freely available and open to anyone, not just students in this state.

The project was jointly funded by the Legislature and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with each putting in $750,000 of the cost.

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