One textbook publisher has a new plan to undercut the commercial publishing companies that create overpriced textbooks: produce textbooks for free.

According to an article in Good magazine by Liz Dwyer:

OpenStax plans to compete with pricey $200 hardback texts from for-profit publishers by offering digital books for five common introductory classes for free, starting with sociology and physics texts this spring. OpenStax is beginning with introductory texts because the information in them is relatively basic and less likely to change year to year. Publishers are frequently accused of filling their coffers by updating textbook editions at random and then convincing professors to adopt the new version. If the OpenStax plan works, the multi-billion-dollar textbook industry could be in trouble.

Or, well, it would be in more trouble. In fact the publishing industry has been suffering for years. Textbook publishing is one of the few reasonably profitable lines, since at least that sector has a relatively stable market in college students purchasing required texts.

According to the article, in the week since OpenStax’s launch, only a few colleges have agreed to participate in the project.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer