Saturday, December 31, 2011

Why Open Source Math Textbooks?

    This is an exciting time in the long and storied history of mathematics publication, but a lot of work needs to be done to take advantage of new opportunities. Here are a few reasons why national mathematics organizations like the MAA, AMS and NCTM need to develop programs to support and promote open source publication.
    1. Technology makes preparation and distribution of textbooks easy, however innovations in editing and peer review still lag.
    2. Mathematicians eager to take advantage of new technologies have developed many fine textbooks available for free on the Internet.
    3. These authors often do not get "credit'' for this work because it is not peer reviewed, indeed, the author may have no idea how widely used the text actually is or how well-received it might be.
    4. Textbook adopters have no way of evaluating the quality of open source textbooks and hence have a difficult time convincing their institutions to adopt.
    5. Crowd sourcing and open source publication are growing phenomena. Harnessing these resources is not only smart, but imperative.
    This is by no means an exhaustive list of reasons. Feel free to add reasons in the comment section.