Posted on October 13, 2009 · Posted in SF Fellow

I was quite excited to see a press release from the Office of the Governor for the state of California: Governor Schwarzenegger Signs Legislation Furthering Digital Textbook Initiative. But then I noticed one of the components signed off:

SB 48 by Senator Elaine Alquist (D-San Jose) requires that any individual, firm, partnership or corporation that offers textbooks for sale at the University of California, the California State University, the California Community Colleges or any private postsecondary education institution in the state, to the extent practicable, make them available, in whole or in part, for sale in an electronic format by January 1, 2020.

Before we discuss this further lets remind ourselves of the context. We’re talking about developments in a digital space, in the world of OERs where the movement has been accelerating significantly this year with projects like Connexions, CK12, Flat World Knowledge and Curriki (to name a few) all taking off. In this context, I think this is completely laughable!

Lets think about this for half a second:

  • to the extent practicable: an opt-out clause of note!
  • in whole or in part: so if I make a page or two available am I done?
  • January 1, 2020: and you’ve got geological rather than digital timelines to do …… nothing!?

Perhaps I should dig deeper into it but even if the majority of the content needs to be available, the deadline alone makes this a joke. Collaborative technology and its use will leapfrog this little piece of legislation in the next 18 months. Any publisher clinging to this as a timeline to get their act together regarding the digital distribution of content has just committed suicide.

Even in South Africa we already have almost the entire curriculum available online, just combine the scope of content covered on Connexions by Siyavula, the material that can be downloaded from the Mindset Network and fill in some gaps with what you can find on Thutong. This is all just my opinion of course.

About the Author

Mark Horner is the CEO of Siyavula Education, a social enterprise working in the school sector in South Africa. While working as the Shuttleworth Foundation Fellow for Open and Collaborative Resources, Mark was able to transform the Free High School Science Texts (FHSST) project, which he co-founded, into Siyavula Education. In this process, openly-licensed, collaboratively authored textbooks have been printed and distributed nationally in South Africa. Working at the intersection of community, openness and technology; Mark intends to leverage this success to make Siyavula an innovative, technology provider in education that works effectively as part of the education community to ensure better learning opportunities for all. A recent notable event being the delivery of Siyavula's textbooks over Mxit, the most popular mobile chat solution in South Africa. Mark has a PhD in physics from the University of Cape Town and conducted his research at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California on the results from the STAR experiment at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York. His work is carried out in the belief that the liberation of information and support of education in South Africa will lead to a peaceful and prosperous future for all South Africans.