Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Al Franken (D-MN) introduced the Affordable College Textbook Act to the Senate last Thursday.
The bill would provide grants for universities to create textbooks that can be freely accessed and modified online. The hope of the act’s proponents is that these open-source textbooks would drive down textbook prices in general.
“One thing is clear,” Durbin said in a press conference last Thursday. “The traditional publishing market is not providing students the materials they need at a cost they can afford.”
Durbin cited a pilot project at the University of Illinois which produced an open-source textbook called “Sustainability: a Comprehensive Foundation.” Since its introduction, the free textbook has been used across the University of Illinois system and around the country.
A corresponding piece of legislation has been introduced in the House. Durbin said he expected opposition from the textbook industry, and encouraged college students to advocate for the proposal. A similar bill was introduced by Durbin in 2013 but never left committee.