I've been saying for years that it would be a great idea for public schools to invest in the production of open-source-style licensed textbooks. As long as textbooks are being sold by traditional publishers, they get to charge a per-unit price for them. If you want ten million students to read some publishing house's version of Our Glossy History of America or what have you, then you have to pay ten million times n dollars. If you instead invest in having a new textbook written from scratch and placed under a Creative Commons license, then you pay an up-front cost (expensive, no doubt, but probably pretty cheap as line items on the state budget go) and then it can be issued to any arbitrary number of students for no more than the cost of having copies printed up by the lowest bidder. The publisher's markup, marketing costs, and distribution costs vanish from the price.
There are external benefits, too. Some day it might be plausible for schools to save even more money by going all-digital; they wouldn't even have to pay to print the books. If the books are formatted in such a way that they can be printed paper-bound at your local Kinko's (the way most college readers are), students could cheaply have one or two extra copies as their private property—one to highlight and take notes in, or one copy for the locker and one for home. And free online textbooks would be a resource to autodidacts and other schools, not just in the state, but anywhere on the Internet.
The analogy to open-source software is apt. These days, reproducing information costs next to nothing, as long as it was produced by someone who chooses not to charge a per-unit price. Public schools essentially pay rent on individual textbooks issued to students, not unlike the so-called Microsoft tax when you buy a PC. I have nothing against the textbook publishers' profit-seeking activities—they're free to try whatever business model they like—but philanthropists and volunteers really ought to be able to beat their prices.