$200 textbook vs. free: You do the math

Two founders of Sun Microsystems have created nonprofit organizations to bring open-source textbooks to kindergarten through high school classes, reports the New York Times. Scott McNealy, the fiery co-founder and former chief executive of Sun Microsystems, shuns basic math textbooks as bloated monstrosities: their price keeps rising while the core information inside of them stays the same. “Ten plus 10 has been 20 for a long time,” he says. Early this year, database software maker Oracle acquired Sun for $7.4 billion, leaving McNealy without a job. He has since decided to aim his energy and some money at Curriki, an online hub for free textbooks and other course material that he spearheaded six years ago. “We are spending $8 billion to $15 billion per year on textbooks” in the United States, McNealy says. “It seems to me we could put that all online for free.” Over the last few years, groups nationwide have started financing open-source books—but progress with these open-source texts has been slow. In California, a state board is studying whether open texts meet state requirements. The CK-12 Foundation, a nonprofit organization financed by another Sun co-founder, Vinod Khosla, has created several texts that have met the board’s criteria. For its worth, Curriki has made only modest strides, but McNealy has pledged to inject new life into the effort. He wants to borrow from Sun’s software development systems to create an organized framework for collecting educational information…

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