Wired (magazine) brings us this news story about a biology textbook project due to complete in late 2012 or early 2013, “Life on Earth”. Although the estimated cost will runs around 10 million (USD), they plan to make the text available for free. Funding for the project appears to be coming from philanthropic foundations.
Only a limited number of textbooks (“AAA”) cost upwards of one million (USD) to produce. You likely used one of these texts in a first-year university course, such as Introduction to Psychology.
The final product will surely be interesting from an educational perspective, but it also raises questions about the direction of the textbook industry. This project has emerged within a context framed by widening criticism of the traditional textbook industry for its ever-increasing prices (Chronicle article) and the almost cult-ish open educational resources movement (OER) that offer (typically) small budget alternatives.
Interesting comments on the biology textbook project from Stephen Solomon.