On Open Access Textbooks
"There are many curious ironies about the open access movement, and indeed the shift from print to electronic in general. Not least of these is that while advocacy efforts focus on the peer-reviewed research article, progress towards open access is happening in areas where no advocacy efforts are directed at all, to my knowledge. One such area is open access textbooks. This came to my attention one day when searching for online math textbooks. I was not expecting to find free texts at all, on the assumption that textbooks were an area where the commercial sector would obviously prevail - after all, who would write an entire textbook without expectation of financial compensation? Imagine my surprise, then, to find the extensive list of Textbooks, Lecture Notes and Tutorials in Mathematics by Alexandre Stefanov. All resources are free, and are divided into topics such as general mathematics, number theory, algebra, algebraic geometry, topolisis, analysis, geometry, mathematical physics, probability theory, formatting documents (TEX, LATEX, etc.). Alexandre links to a number of other substantial lists, including the list of Online mathematics textbooks, including over 40 textbooks as of October 2005, maintained by George Cain, School of Mathematics, Georgia Institute of Technology.....The more I think about it, the more open textbooks make sense, particularly in mathematics. Printed textbooks are expensive - one cannot ask students to purchase more than one mathematics textbook. Yet it seems obvious that the student is much better off having access to the dozens of free textbooks that are already available. If a student is having difficulty understanding a concept explained one way, does it not make sense to provide an alternative explanation?
(PS: There's a growing number of OA textbook sites, but as far as I know just one searchable portal that tries to be comprehensive: Jason Turgeon's Textbook Revolution. Check it out.)"