A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post titled “Hacking Textbooks - We Need It” where I pointed out that college textbooks are a $7B annual market in the US alone. I was therefore thrilled to see that California last week passed a law to attempt to create free creative commons-licensed textbooks.
Now one might argue that the government should not be spending money to interfere with a private market and I am sure existing publishers of college textbooks will be fighting this legislation. But if the government succeeds in getting these books peer-produced by the professors and students in the University of California system and then makes them available for free globally it would be a huge boon to learning everywhere. This is yet another example of how the Internet can result in changes that have concentrated negative impact (jobs and profits at college book publishers) and diffuse but huge positive impact (free learning everywhere).
I am excited about the prospects of free text books and hope that California gets the system right so that peer production can result in high quality. If done right this could be a great fit with the peer progressive agenda.