California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law two pieces of legislation on September 27, paving the way for the creation of free, open-source digital textbooks for 50 of the most popular lower-division courses in California’s public colleges and universities.  SB 1052 establishes the California Open Education Resources Council.  This body is tasked with selecting the 50 courses and developing a competitive process through which “faculty members, publishers, and other interested parties” may seek funding to create textbooks for the designated courses.  The textbooks are to be made available to students in the selected courses for free online, or in hard copy for $20.

SB 1052 also sets out criteria for the textbooks themselves.  Most notably, it requires that the textbooks be “placed under a creative commons attribution license that allows others to use, distribute, and create derivative works based upon the digital material while still allowing the authors or creators to receive credit for their efforts.” 

SB 1053, a companion bill, establishes the California Digital Open Source Library, which is to be administered jointly by the California State University, the California Community Colleges, and potentially the University of California.  According to the legislation, the Library is to serve as an online portal “for students, faculty, and staff to easily find, adopt, utilize, or modify course materials for little or no cost.”  As with the open-source textbooks under SB 1052, SB 1053 provides that all materials in the Library are to be placed under a creative commons attribution license.

Both bills specify that their implementation is contingent on the availability of funding from state, federal, or private sources.  There are reports that the project would be funded from a mixture of private and public sources.  One proponent of the new laws has prepared an estimate of the potential financial impact of these laws on students.