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Rice U. Acquires Rights to Popular Textbook to Offer It Free Online

Students taking statistics at some community colleges won’t need to shell out $50 for the textbook Collaborative Statistics anymore. Rice University is making the book available free online after buying the rights from a commercial textbook publisher.

“We’re hoping that this is the first of many,” said Joel Thierstein, executive director of Connexions, an open-education effort at Rice that organized the giveaway. He said that even if only a few popular textbooks could be made available in the same way, it would cut costs for thousands of students. “The top 10 books alone would be enough to ease the burden of most community-college students significantly,” he said.

The Maxfield Foundation, which supports scientific research and education, provided the money to buy the rights to the book, though Rice officials would not say how much they had cost.

Not everyone wants to read books online, of course. So the Connexions project is offering a printed version for $31.95. Users of the book are also free to adapt the book to their own needs, and the hope is that professors will voluntarily update the book over time, given that its former publisher will no longer issue periodic revisions of it.

The project is affiliated with a broader effort to offer free learning materials, called the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources. —Jeffrey R. Young

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