While it’s admirable that Congress just woke up to the spiraling costs of college text books, the first place to make the switch isn’t at the college level, it’s at the elementary level.
The second part of the equation is that if Ohio wants to be a leader in forward thinking education- it’s not by tying in to textbook publishers, but in establishing an open source/creative commons license textbook system for K-12. Fundamental learning requirements change less frequently than college level texts and therefore can be implemented quicker and across a broader audience. The key is providing laptops to all students. See my post on the XO laptop  for more on K-6 solutions.
The article on college e-textbooks in today’s is worth a read, however, the options discussed leave out any mention of open source learning solutions. Why are we still buying Encyclopedia Britannica’s when there is a Wikipedia ?
Schools, publishers experiment to cut textbook prices 
Fingerhut thinks e-books have potential but aren’t the whole solution to the textbook cost problem.
He envisions a mass purchasing program at the state level for negotiating prices on commonly used texts, electronic or printed, to give faculty the option of a cheaper book. As part of the 10-year master plan for the University System of Ohio, Fingerhut is pushing for a single technology infrastructure for linking all the state’s colleges and universities.
Incorporating e-texts into that and using it to leverage buying power “is a market I think could really work,” Fingerhut said. “The result is significant savings for students and schools.”
Eric Fingerhut is Ohio’s “Education Chancellor” and seems to be making serious efforts to push Ohio forward, however, we still haven’t solved the problem of school funding, which was deemed unconstitutional over 14 years ago. With the Dayton Public Schools looking to try to pass a large levy this fall, after Sinclair just barely squeaked out a win in a well funded campaign, the outlook for being able to have college ready kids should be a first priority.
If DPS went to voters with a step-by-step plan on what their money would buy, and why it makes sense, they may have a better chance at passing a levy. One of the first moves would be to implement K-12 laptops, with a move to open source educational resources (e-texts), paperless schools and free citywide wireless for students and residents at minimal cost.
It’s also time to look at recovering tax abatements from corporations that didn’t live up to their end of their economic development deals, but this is something for a future post.
E-texts are a viable alternative to hardbound textbooks, however, the idea of buying them as opposed to sharing in the ownership as is the norm for Open Source software is where the discussion really needs to be focused.