Publishers announce roadblocks to CA’s Open Road to Free College Textbooks

    Today, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) released a “knee-jerk” national press release announcing in panicky fashion their challenge to the notion that historic college textbook legislation unanimously passed by the California State Senate and signed by Governor Jerry Brown could indeed be provided to undergraduates for “free.”

    Stating that “there’s no such thing as a “free” textbook,” AAP attacked the 20 Million Minds Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to lowering the cost of textbooks nationally, calling its recently released infographic  ” voodoo math” based on “trumped-up claims.”

    “It’s disappointing that AAP does not grasp what their pricing structures have done to the finances of the average college student. The overpricing of textbooks, combined with unnecessary new editions has produced static, antiquated products that are sold at incredibly premium prices” said Dean Florez, President of the 20 Million Minds Foundation. “We can understand that AAP feels threatened about the impact Governor Brown’s recent signature will have, but our concern is that students have a free option that is state approved and faculty adopted. We believe it’s a positive when privately funded foundations can come together with the state to work on educating our next generation of digital natives.”

    The 20 Million Mind Foundation has responded to the AAP press release attacks below:

    AAP: “these “free” textbooks will, in fact, cost California taxpayers, including college students, tens of millions of dollars to develop, distribute and maintain”

    20MM Response: WRONG. Publisher textbooks are already costing huge amounts of taxpayer dollars and offering a free version online will cost students nothing. Consider that the state of California already spends over $200 million dollars in taxpayer financed Cal Grant B funding (used primarily for textbooks) that pays for overpriced publisher textbooks that far exceed the average inflation rate growth in medical care, housing, food and other consumer items. In fact, according to the CA Legislative Analyst Office, total purchases of college textbooks for fiscal year 2013-14 is expected  to be $1.7 billion alone—AND student’s are taxed on these textbooks –thus $67 million in taxes students are paying alone on top of the costs for these required overpriced textbooks.

    AAP: “the initial funding is not going toward the creation of textbooks for “50 … courses” but the development of some unstated lesser number of “strategically selected textbooks”

    20MM Response: WRONG. The initial funding for the textbooks under the legislation goes directly toward the creation or purchase of open source textbooks that will be provided to students for free on the web or any internet device. The newly established California Open Education Resources Council, which has nine members drawn from the UC, CSU, and community college systems, will create and oversee the book approval process, including choosing the courses, then solicit bids to produce the textbooks in time for the 2013-2014 school year that will be paid directly out of the $10 million dollars allocated under the legislation. Important note for the publishers, they too can participate if they can make their content “cc-by” available and given the Council can also choose to use existing open source textbooks.

    AAP: “no credible report or source supports the inflated, seven-year-old figures for student spending or textbook publishing touted by the infographic”

    20 MM Response: WRONG.  The AAP wants you to believe that the stats are old and out dated but many of them are within the past three years and all trending reports indicate that textbook prices are getting more expensive.  It is somewhat insulting that the AAP feels the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Student PIRGS and the College Board are all non-credible sources of information. Instead of presenting a bogus claim that our stats are non-credible and outdated, we challenge the AAP to prove that the trends are changing and textbooks are becoming more affordable.  The truth is they are not becoming more affordable.

    The 20 Million Minds Foundation will be releasing a new infographic next week to address point-by-point the flawed statements issued in the AAP’s roadmap attack on the facts presented by 20MM.