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Copyleft text books?

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
Okay I was reading this at NYT.

<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2002/03/11/opinion/11MON3.html" target="_blank">After 10 Long Years, Alabama Is Back Where It Started</a>


One major problem is that these schools don't have enough books. That's because they cost money and you can't copy them. Why isn't there any <a href="http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/copyleft.html" target="_blank">copyleft</a> text books? You know, some ivory tower types pitch in and write some basic books on math, science, spelling, grammar, history ... all copyleft. You can buy a copy or run a copy off the Xerox or anything you want? A local business could donate a copy machine or print a PDF file to get a new copy. Download it file share it who cares? It's copyleft!

Why isn't this done? It makes too much sense?

[ 03-11-2002: Message edited by: Scott H. ]</p>
post #2 of 21
To quote a poetic genius of our time:

It's all about the Benjamins. <img src="graemlins/smokin.gif" border="0" alt="[Chilling]" />
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post #3 of 21
Thread Starter 
Yea. I'm sure the government wont pay for it. Imagine how good Xerox would come off if they paid for this to push print on demand tech'? Pay some prof's to write a k-6 reading series. Then give it away for free. Plus it would be great for homeschooling.
post #4 of 21
post #5 of 21
Thread Starter 
Naw. You can get a grant to write it. Publish some journal articles on it for the review committee. Why can't a place like California have a project where the UC education profs write the books and then anyone in the state can print them. What a great way to save on cash?
post #6 of 21
Couldn't read the linked article because I refuse to sign up for that garbage, but this sound awfully socialist for you Scot.
post #7 of 21
Thread Starter 
Maybe the government funding part but that's where it ends. It's very free market. If you "own" something you can give it away. If you need something and can't pay for it you get others to help out and then all can use it. It's like a barn building party.

The Socialist system would have the government centralized office of text book writing that every year would produce a set of text books for general consumption. That office would cost 10X what it should and make crappy books teachers don't want to use. Private text book companies would be outlawed.
post #8 of 21
I'm just busting on ya Scott. I actually think it's not such a bad idea. I mean if the states fund a state university system why couldn't they make it a requirement of the proffessors to write some text books?
post #9 of 21
wow Scott coming up with a good left-ist idea!
Realy I wonder if they could use something like that.

But that does not fix the roof, or the floor, or the over all lack of anything but this is Alabama... <img src="graemlins/hmmm.gif" border="0" alt="[Hmmm]" />
post #10 of 21
Thread Starter 
IT'S NOT A LEFTIST IDEA! How dare you call me that.

At least the kids will have books to read.
post #11 of 21
C'mon Scott, first your accepting government hand outs for your schooling now your coming up with ideas like this! I dunno, next your gonna be saying unions are good and we should phase out workfare and bring back the old welfare system.
post #12 of 21
[quote]Originally posted by Scott H.:
<strong>Okay I was reading this at NYT.

<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2002/03/11/opinion/11MON3.html" target="_blank">After 10 Long Years, Alabama Is Back Where It Started</a>


One major problem is that these schools don't have enough books. That's because they cost money and you can't copy them. Why isn't there any <a href="http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/copyleft.html" target="_blank">copyleft</a> text books? You know, some ivory tower types pitch in and write some basic books on math, science, spelling, grammar, history ... all copyleft. You can buy a copy or run a copy off the Xerox or anything you want? A local business could donate a copy machine or print a PDF file to get a new copy. Download it file share it who cares? It's copyleft!

Why isn't this done? It makes too much sense?

[ 03-11-2002: Message edited by: Scott H. ]</strong><hr></blockquote>

A couple things to keep in mind, boyo.

1. You get what you pay for.

2. But, given the abject monopoly position in the textbook industry (defined as falling quality and rising prices) it might be a good idea.

3. Since I saw L.A. Confidential, I've wanted to use "boyo." Sorry.
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post #13 of 21
Well, as an educator, I have been there with this issue. The real catch is that photocopying costs money, too - about 5 cents per page. So, if you want to run off a 400 page book (smaller than most school texts), that's $20. If you want it bound, it'll cost another $3 -$5 each. They won't be particularly durable, but if you're careful, they might last 2 years. A regular textbook costs anywhere from $50 - $75 for secondary level books (at least last time I checked), but they are typically used for 6 years or more. In the long run, it's cheaper to just buy the textbooks. Trust me, schools pinch pennies any way they can. Those who complain about wasting money in public schools don't know what it really costs for education - there's a reason private schools charge $5000 per year or more in tuition. Most public schools have to get by on 2/3 of that or less.
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post #14 of 21
[quote]Originally posted by TJM:
<strong>Well, as an educator, I have been there with this issue. The real catch is that photocopying costs money, too - about 5 cents per page. So, if you want to run off a 400 page book (smaller than most school texts), that's $20. If you want it bound, it'll cost another $3 -$5 each. They won't be particularly durable, but if you're careful, they might last 2 years. A regular textbook costs anywhere from $50 - $75 for secondary level books (at least last time I checked), but they are typically used for 6 years or more. In the long run, it's cheaper to just buy the textbooks. Trust me, schools pinch pennies any way they can. Those who complain about wasting money in public schools don't know what it really costs for education - there's a reason private schools charge $5000 per year or more in tuition. Most public schools have to get by on 2/3 of that or less.</strong><hr></blockquote>

5¢ a page? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? that is the price you pay at staples...it basically comes down to the cost of paper, which is miniscule, and ink, which is also miniscule--even if you are printing 400 pages per book and getting them bound that wouldn't be more then $10 a book, even that is pushing it...

also, digital copies of the textbooks could be given to the students for free...if i had my textbooks on PDF files I would probably study a whole lot more--but that is a differnt debate.

It is my understanding that public schools get tax benefits that private schools do not get (along with gov't $ to provide for the school)
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post #15 of 21
I, too am stunned that this topic was started by Scotth!
But on to his ideas of 'sharing the wealth' of knowledge...

It is indeed a bizarre problem, when textbook publishers look at their industry as a money grab, cash crop and not a social responsibility. Whoever their parents were, nice job raising them.

It would be nice to see some industry standard texts emerge under copyleft, like Project Gutenberg or whatever. I'm leery about suggesting that the Gov't pay for it (even though it would be a one-time cost sort of thing, plus occasional updates) simply because Gov't + Textbooks sounds a little too China to me.

It would be nice if these texts were electronic as well, as then they could be updated at no cost, instead of the 'every year a new revised edition' BS that publishers use to hock more books.

Looking ahead a bit, Some centralised database of free (as in freedom) texts in pdf/Html or some future equuivalent would be much more efficient.Stuck on the web somewhere. I have a feeling open Source software will get to this someday. Not only online-available texts, but also available in multiple languages so people in, say China can read something other than propaganda.

Linux as it stands today has pretty good Native Language Support (NLS).

Also, oddly enough, Redhat is (i think) based out of Alabama, and is taking measures to put (low-end, older) computers in classrooms. Check it out, <a href="http://www.redhat.com/opensourcenow/open_lab.html" target="_blank">http://www.redhat.com/opensourcenow/open_lab.html</a>

No tree chopping, no bullshit where your texts are out of date because 6 months have elapsed, just learniing material, plain and simple.

[ 03-16-2002: Message edited by: stimuli ]

You know what, now that I think about it, electronic media would be far more powerful as a medium than non-interactive books. You could, say, zoom in on a portion of the brain, and zoom out and view the whole circulatory system, etc.

The necessarily linear flow of books could be supplanted by a more non-linear tangental approach.

[ 03-16-2002: Message edited by: stimuli ]

[ 03-16-2002: Message edited by: stimuli ]</p>
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post #16 of 21
[quote]1. You get what you pay for.

<hr></blockquote>

True, but keep in mind that books, like software, can be (however slowly) added to. Adobe doesn't toss out their codebase and rewrite PS from scratch every year. They add on to it, maybe remove old bits that have been re-written for speed or features.

While the books would no doubt start out rough, over time, as they are added to and polished, they'd be as good as any expensive textbook.

M$ isn't shitting their pants over linux on the desktop today but rather tomorrow. They realize, that given time, it will catch up to M$, as the code becomes more complete, more puzzle pieces fall into place. The code doesn't disappear, it gets better.

While the expensive hardback textbooks out today are decent, they're not made of a level of quality that copyleft could never hope to achieve.

The other good thing about copyleft books would be that, just like M$ and linux, the book publishers would suddenly have competition, and would have to justify their own existence. IE: if i can get a good quality book for free, what do you offer for $60?
No, the bazaar cannot satisfy users. Neither can the cathedral. Nothing can satisfy users, because software is written to enable rather than satisfy, and because most users are mewling malcontents...
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post #17 of 21
[quote]Originally posted by psantora:
<strong>

5¢ a page? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? that is the price you pay at staples...it basically comes down to the cost of paper, which is miniscule, and ink, which is also miniscule--even if you are printing 400 pages per book and getting them bound that wouldn't be more then $10 a book, even that is pushing it...

also, digital copies of the textbooks could be given to the students for free...if i had my textbooks on PDF files I would probably study a whole lot more--but that is a differnt debate.

It is my understanding that public schools get tax benefits that private schools do not get (along with gov't $ to provide for the school)</strong><hr></blockquote>

You are neglecting the costs of the machines themselves. There is often a 2-3 cents per page rental fee back to the company that provides it. Or, if the school has bought it, there is maintenance in addition to the capital costs to deal with. 5 cents per page is pretty close, overall. Photocopying charges were always one of the largest line items in departmental budgets.

I don't know what tax breaks you are referring to. All the money from a public school comes from the government. They do not charge any tuition at all. They often have to smack on extra "taxes" to their students to cover expenses since usually the local appropriations are insufficient to get the job done (things like parking fees, lab fees, "technology" fees, etc.). Since the land the schools sit on is publicly owned, there are no real estate taxes to pay, anyway. That's about the only tax "break" I can think of.

I would love to see web-based HTML or pdf textbooks that could be accessed anywhere by the student. They could charge $5 per year per student for access and the schools would be WAY ahead - no need to store or account for textbooks, no need for the students to keep up with them, no loss or excessive wear fees to deal with, etc. etc. Great idea! I hope it happens.

[ 03-16-2002: Message edited by: TJM ]</p>
"Mathematics is the language with which God has written the Universe" - Galileo Galilei
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post #18 of 21
[quote]Originally posted by TJM:
<strong>You are neglecting the costs of the machines themselves. There is often a 2-3 cents per page rental fee back to the company that provides it. Or, if the school has bought it, there is maintenance in addition to the capital costs to deal with. 5 cents per page is pretty close, overall. Photocopying charges were always one of the largest line items in departmental budgets.</strong><hr></blockquote>
I was assuming that someone would donate them... but I still forgot about the maintenece costs... I know they can get hairy... In my school they are starting a "quota" system fr teachers who use the copy machine "too much" this is rediculous I think... but whatever...

[quote]I don't know what tax breaks you are referring to. All the money from a public school comes from the government. They do not charge any tuition at all. They often have to smack on extra "taxes" to their students to cover expenses since usually the local appropriations are insufficient to get the job done (things like parking fees, lab fees, "technology" fees, etc.). Since the land the schools sit on is publicly owned, there are no real estate taxes to pay, anyway. That's about the only tax "break" I can think of.<hr></blockquote>
yeah, thats what i was thinking of--the fact that they dont own the land... and in some areas that could be a big deal... (although i think private schools may get a break on this in much the same way churches do--or I could just be wrong...)

[quote]I would love to see web-based HTML or pdf textbooks that could be accessed anywhere by the student. They could charge $5 per year per student for access and the schools would be WAY ahead - no need to store or account for textbooks, no need for the students to keep up with them, no loss or excessive wear fees to deal with, etc. etc. Great idea! I hope it happens.

[ 03-16-2002: Message edited by: TJM ][/QB]<hr></blockquote>

me too, but as we all know, $ makes the world go round and textbook companies would never stand for it....
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post #19 of 21
[quote]Originally posted by stimuli:
<strong>

You get what you pay for.

</strong><hr></blockquote>

To the extent that genii such as Arthur C. Clarke want to write books for free and publish them, and be a help to the community (such as Woz has done), that's great. I'll probably want to do the same thing when I retire, assuming that I make enough money between now and then to retire.

"free stuff" is liable to be worthless, unfortunately.
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post #20 of 21
By and large, yes, but there's actually quite a lot of quality, free stuff out there. Esp. on the internet. Like the web browser you're posting with.

Not sure if you are using OSX, for example, but 90% of that OS is 'free' as in freedom AND no cost.

OpenBSD, the most secure OS on planet earth (oddly enough, Theo DeRaadt, the founder, lives 3 blocks from me here in Calgary) is free.

The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier by Bruce Sterling is a great book and is available for free on the net.

Project Gutenburg, etc, have lots of classics on the web for free.

Free != shit

[ 03-19-2002: Message edited by: stimuli ]

[ 03-19-2002: Message edited by: stimuli ]</p>
No, the bazaar cannot satisfy users. Neither can the cathedral. Nothing can satisfy users, because software is written to enable rather than satisfy, and because most users are mewling malcontents...
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post #21 of 21
Stimuli:

I just caught your sig. You have a way of quoting the wisest, most intelligent people ever to walk this planet. <img src="graemlins/lol.gif" border="0" alt="[Laughing]" /> Thanks for the compliment.
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