B.C. to offer free e-books to students

British Columbia is set to become the first province in Canada to offer students free online, open textbooks.

British Columbia is set to become the first province in Canada to offer students free online, open textbooks for the 40 most popular post-secondary courses.

Up to 200,000 B.C. students each year could benefit from this move under B.C.’s Families First Agenda, saving each student hundreds of dollars a year or more on textbooks – money that can go toward other learning supplies or living expenses.

“Open textbooks are an innovative way to support B.C.’s green initiatives while lowering our carbon footprint,” said Terry Lake, B.C. Minister of Environment. “As well, having the

option of accessing the books online will save students money that they can use for other priorities and expenses.”

An open textbook is typically published under an open licence and can be read online or downloaded at no cost. If a printed copy is desired, the book is made available for printing at a fraction of traditional textbook costs. Because the open textbooks are digital and open, they can be modified and adapted by instructors to fit different classes.

Open textbooks are part of a growing movement worldwide supporting Open Education Resources, which takes advantage of the Internet (making information sharing easier) and open licences (which extend the rights to use, reuse, revise and share material).

Government will work with post-secondary institutions in implementing an open textbook policy in anticipation they could be in use at B.C. institutions as early as 2013-14, supporting students taking a variety of courses in areas like arts, sciences, humanities and business.

The open textbooks are expected to be created with input from B.C. faculty, institutions and publishers through an open Request for Proposal process co-ordinated by BCcampus, a publicly funded organization that aims to make higher education available to everyone through the smart use of collaborative information technology services. Educators will continue to have the option of using other teaching materials in developing curriculum and teaching classes.

This is the latest step announced under the Families First Agenda for British Columbia, which helps make life more affordable, support vulnerable families and keep communities safe.