Joyce Valenza suggests keeping an eye on the emerging world of WikiBooks, otherwise known as open source textbook projects. WikiBooks boasts history, physics, math and foreign language titles, although none of them are really built out enough to be serious textbooks. They haven't gotten much play lately but Valenza suspects they may be ready to break out.
[W]e are on the cusp of a growing movement particularly hot in the education blogs– perhaps as a reaction to the homogenization, the slow publication and adoption processes, and the need for political correctness in textbook publishing, perhaps as a response to the costs of buying, distributing, and replacing textbooks.
For open source texts to be a serious movement, there needs to be funding, planning, peer reviews, quality control. One serious planning effort is happening at Education Bridges
where ed tech experts are engaged in a series of strategic chats and webcasts. The educators have varied visions for funding and platform, who should contribute to the projects, and the levels of control and validation necessary, and it is quite possible that several models may develop for this new educational resource. One model suggested included a core of standards-based uneditable, validate content around which other content would grow. This model would likely solicit the support of grants. Another suggested a freely developed wiki, with teachers and learners freely contributing and editing and making their own judgments regarding quality and relevance.
She points to several other projects but her enthusiasm is not as high for all the hard work of creating books that could replace the big publishers' but with using Wikis to tap into the creativity happening in scattered classrooms.
One of my very favorite teachers, a true fan of resource-based learning, was seriously disappointed with the limited way his text covered 20th century American history. He gave his students the following assignment. Pick a chapter in our text and rewrite it. Figure out what is missing, for instance in the ten-page section on the Great Depression and add authoritative content, critical primary sources, links to relevant online materials. Have multiple perspectives have been ignored? (What were women doing?) The student projects, though not posted online for sharing, would have been fine additions to a larger project—a student-created wikitext. A wikitext on U.S. history, with no page length limitations, would be richly linked and capable of leading students to materials of specific local interest.