SHEILA RILEY > 05/08/2012 05:26 PM ET
College students will no longer be out hundreds or even thousands of dollars for print textbooks every year. Instead, they'll read e-textbooks at much less cost — or no cost at all.
At least, that's the scenario promoted by e-textbook advocates, a movement that's flourishing. Sacramento, Calif., nonprofit Twenty Million Minds Foundation, which works to provide free and low-cost digital textbooks, is among those leading the charge. And companies such as Apple (AAPL) are pressing ahead in this market.
Apple Senior Vice President Philip Schiller introduces iBooks 2 for iPad on Jan. 19 in New York City.
The foundation is piloting free e-textbooks at three California community colleges.
And it's working with academics to create a library of 25 open-source, lower-division books that professors can modify to fit their classes. The nonprofit offers e-textbooks in statistics, physics and sociology. Other subject areas are in the works.
Students can read the e-textbooks via the Internet, on PCs or on mobile devices such as tablets and e-book readers. The books are printable and permanently available.
The nonprofit says it will raise and allocate $3 million for its e-library, and says it's received promises of an additional $2 million in funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates, and William and Flora Hewlett foundations.
Other efforts are in place to lower textbook costs for California students. Proposed legislation seeks $25 million in state funding to develop digital textbooks for the 50 most widely taken lower-division courses in the state's higher education system.
Online textbooks and related materials would be free to the state students, and print copies would run $20.
Proponents say e-textbooks make it easier for students to learn. Students will do without books when the cost is too high, they say.
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