Higher education has been intensely scrutinized recently for high and increasing tuition prices. Rightly so, as the U.S. Government Accountability Office estimated average annual increases of seven percent from 2002 to 2012. Congress took an initial step to address this issue in 2008 with provisions in the Higher Education Opportunity Act to improve textbook price transparency. But a recent GAO report (June 2013) concluded that while somewhat successful in helping some students achieve incremental savings, the bill did little to control overall costs.
In November, Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Al Franken (D-MN) sponsored a bill named the Affordable College Textbook Act, which, if passed, would establish a grant program to make textbooks available online with free access. The Affordable College Textbook Act seeks to expand the use of open textbooks on college campuses, providing affordable alternatives to traditional textbooks and keeping prices lower. Digital textbooks can be updated to reflect new information, whereas hard copies were always at the mercy of the latest edition.