This seems like a pretty good idea: Textbooks that are available as free downloads. The catch is that they contain advertisements. From the article:
Freeload Press, in Minnesota, has compiled a roster of about 100 free e-books, most of them on business topics. The texts don’t have the high production values of books from Thomson or McGraw Hill, but they do come dotted with ads for companies including FedEx Kinko’s.
Freeload officials say that the ads will be placed discreetly, and that no alcohol or tobacco products will be promoted. And while some scholars will surely complain that e-books strewn with ads are a bit gauche, students might not mind if the ads can save them a few hundreds bucks on textbook costs.
Indeed. And besides, what do I (as a professor) care if the textbook has ads in it?
I think students today are so habituated to text ads on displayed documents (like a lot of blogs with Google AdSense) that they instinctively tune them out, so I doubt having ads present will have an impact on the pedagogical value of the book. And besides, the whole point is whether the alleged pedagogical value of a textbook is worth the expense.
[Hat tip: Wired Campus Blog]