Self publishing textbooks online saves Minnesota school district $175,000

Faced with a bill for $200,000 for statistics textbooks for their 3,100 high school sophomores, teachers at Blaine High School northwest of Minneapolis decided to write their own digital textbook. Cost? About $25,000. Savings? About $175,000.

Average published textbook price is $65, and are written to standards dictated by California and Texas, the largest markets. By writing their own, Blaine teachers fit the content to the Minnesota curriculum. Students who don't have online access can get a printed copy for $5. Another school in the state, Byron High School, did the same last year and saw state test passing rates bump from 76 percent to 81 percent.

Books will be offered for free to other districts next year after some updates this summer. (teachers are paid to write the material, and to update it). This follows the spirit of the cK-12 Foundation in Silicon Valley, which provided their free framework for developing and distributing digital textbooks.

Kudos to the teachers

As someone with a failed education startup in my past, this makes me deliriously happy. It means that there are still teachers out there who haven't had all the initiative beaten out of them yet.


This is how you save money in a recession! Not only can they change the curriculum on the fly, it will never be outdated material!

Kevin M. Johnson on

I have little doubt that a group of people well educated in any given subject can do better than the average high-school text book. They're often riddled, not just with mistakes, but fundamentally wrong lessons.

beloch on

Time to disrupt the system

there are hundreds of examples of open textbooks for both the K-12 and college levels. It's nice to see a few school districts (and colleges - like Western Governors) officially adopting them and replacing the old books. However, again, thousands of instructors are already doing so individually ('edupunks' :)

edtechdev on

Interesting idea, but I like anything that kicks textbook manufacturers in the teeth.

John Clark on

a price tag like $175,000 for district-wide adoption of a single textbook, the industry is ripe for disruption. At the same time, the industry probably has lobbyists poised to protect their model with "think of the children."

VengefulCynic on

How long before textbook publishers start threatening to sue districts that use these sorts of texts? Or start playing with prices, such that districts are 100% "publisher X" get discount pricing, while other districts get "a la carte" pricing at 3-5x other districts?

mgkimsal on

Open Source textbook arguments

They also could have done well by checking out flatworldknowledge which actually produces open source text-books for teachers to edit to their needs.

Ryan Anderson on

What a crazy thought invest some money in teachers developing curriculum That is aligned with the state core rather than paying significantly higher prices for a book company to provide books that they will continue to have to purchase year after year that are not aligned with the core.

Fred44 on

I'd love to see open-source textbooks on github/bitbucket to be built to html/pdf and easily portable to kindle/ipad, etc, etc. The ability for students to submit bugs and patches would be awesome and empowering for them.

mixmastamyk on

I started reading it. Don't. No one should take a course from that book. The authors of the book don't know the subject. That book won't be a prerequisite for anything important.

HilbertSpace on

What's the over / under time for textbook publishers to get their lawyers involved? Two years or three?

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