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Department of Education hires experts to produce and maintain public domain textbooks - potentially saving billions in education per year

The textbook industry is a $30 billion a year industry.

If the department of education simply hired subject matter experts, over the course of a year, their combined efforts should easily be able to produce quality textbooks. They could also act as managing editors and receive contributions from educators all around the world as a means of updating and improving content quality.

The books would be free to use, download, copy, print, or even edit and modify as each state and school district sees fit. As just one idea of how it could work, They could use low cost tablets that are loaned to students. Another way might be to have the Dept of Education print them up and distribute them at cost to the schools. The possibilities are endless.

If they produced 100 of the most common textbooks used, with 3 subject matter experts per book each earning $100K a year, the cost to produce and maintain up to date, free text books would be only $30 million a year. If we include a pool of graphic artists, photographers, writers, editors and management, we are looking at maybe $40 million per year. Almost 1000 times less than buying commercially produced textbooks..

Any thoughts? Ideas for improvement? Potential pitfalls?

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    Jan 15 2013: I like the idea, but isn't there a fear of putting people out of work if the government steps in and does this? what happens to the publishing companies if it happens all at once? How does that affect the larger economy? I am a college professor and I haven't used a textbook in about 3 years, everything I teach can be found freely online, and I believe their is value added in teaching students to find it on their own. I am also currently working on a creative commons licensed developmental reader for community college developmental reading and writing students using TED Talks as a curiosity spark and then having colleagues from across the disciplines write passages related to the content in their fields. Textbook costs can be the make or break for many community college students
    • Jan 16 2013: Your project sounds very similar in nature to what I am looking to do on a much larger scale. Perhaps you could even be one of the subject matter experts or contributors...Who knows? There are several open textbook projects, and I have great admiration for them. I just don't see them as being self-sustaining without serious long term funding. I also don't see them as being very useful (implemented) without rigorous over-site that values what school districts and educators are looking for. I believe the Dept of Education can fill both roles very well.

      In all walks of life, unemployment is a natural consequence of increased efficiency. However, that's not a very good reason to fear an increase in efficiency. Saving $30 billion a year gives us a choice - we can either save that money, spend it in other areas as we choose, or even a combination of the two. Choice is the key. Without increased efficiency, there are no savings, and as such, there would be no alternatives to choose from.

      Unemployment is outside of the scope of this discussion, but it is a reasonable question none the less. The answer is simple. We can always choose to spend that money in ways that create the same number of jobs...The beauty of that is, not only do we now have textbooks, we also have some other new service - all for the same price and employment level.

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