How Free is “Free”?
The article about CK12’s open-source digital FlexBooks compelled a reader to respond with some questions.
I have developed a strong interest in open or free text ever since I purchased a brand new grey-market, European textbook for 60 dollars, a full third of what Americans pay for the same biology book. I also got into a heated discussion with my professor about free education, and free information. I was upset because he forced us to buy his access guide and sub par “media lab” that he created with flash sometime in 2002.
I have a few questions that this article does not address. The first is who is involved with creating the content for the books? Are the writers paid? volunteers? vetted? If they are paid then who is paying for the free books? And my last question is are the books truly free, meaning does anyone have access to them? Calling something free, then selling a college level product at an inflated rate to make up for the lost profits is, in my opinion, inconsistent with a desire to provide free high quality information to students.
I asked Neeru Khosla, the founder of CK12 to respond directly.
CK-12 FlexBooks are created by teachers who have had domain experience for at least 5 years or so. In addition to the authors, we have domain expert, technical editor, and editing. The books when they are finalized through this team are also sent to classroom teachers for feedback and review.
Our books are not written by volunteers, however you can donate a book to our project and we will determine the quality at this point as is the case of People’s Physics Book and From Stargazers to Starships. We pay them a small fee. The money comes from funding through grant from a private foundation. These books are truly free everyone has access to them. We don’t have any limitation.
And lastly, my input:
CK-12’s FlexBooks earned perfect scores in Phase Two of California’s Free Digital Textbook Initiative.