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Free digital texts try to break the oligopoly on classroom textbooks

Details from the L.A. Times:

Caltech economics professor R. Preston McAfee finds it annoying that students and faculty haven't looked harder for alternatives to the exorbitant prices. McAfee wrote a well-regarded open-source economics textbook and gave it away -- online. But although the text, released in 2007, has been adopted at several prestigious colleges, including Harvard and Claremont-McKenna, it has yet to make a dent in the wider textbook market.

"I was disappointed in the uptake," McAfee said recently at an outdoor campus cafe. "But I couldn't continue assigning idiotic books that are starting to break $200."

McAfee is one of a band of would-be reformers who are trying to beat the high cost -- and, they say, the dumbing down -- of college textbooks by writing or promoting open-source, no-cost digital texts. ... "What makes us rich as a society is what we know and what we can do," he said. "Anything that stands in the way of the dissemination of knowledge is a real problem."

McAfee said he wrote his open-source book because the traditional textbook market is broken. Textbook and college supply prices nearly tripled between 1986 and 2004, an audit by the federal Government Accountability Office found in 2005.

Read the whole thing here.

Then, if you want to learn something about economics, download Professor McAfee's textbook here.

Also check out the Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching [MERLOT] here.


Comments

It ain't open source because the book is licensed under Creative Common Noncommercial Sharealike license.

At least it is one step in the right direction.

I don't know much about McAfee's book, but from a quick glance it is not apparent that it follows the Austrian economics school; therefore, I imagine there are better books one can learn economics from, such as the following, all free and online: David Gordon, An Introduction to Economic Reasoning; Essentials of Economics, Faustino Ballvé; Henry Hazlitt, Economics in One Lesson; Gene Callahan, Economics for Real People; Jim Cox, The Concise Guide to Economics.
Kiba - Fair point in distinguishing between 'open-source' and Creative Commons. The L.A. Times misused the term.

Stephan - McAfee's book admittedly isn't an intro to Economics per se, but rather an intro to economic 'analysis' - a topic that can be distinguished from basic economic principles. I'm not hugely familiar with other texts on the subject, so can't say if there are others out there that are better.

Justin, thanks for the clarification. Is McAfee's consistent with Austrian economics?

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