In an interesting twist in the college textbook market, John Wiley this week announced a partnership with Rice University-based OpenStax College, an initiative to provide free, open textbooks. Under the deal, Wiley will deliver content from OpenStax College’s two new biology textbooks via its WileyPLUS platform along. Pilot tests are slated to begin this fall.

OpenStax College is a nonprofit initiative of Rice University, backed by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the 20 Million Minds Foundation and the Maxfield Foundation. It uses philanthropic support to produce textbooks which are available free online. According to its release, the first two OpenStax books, introductory texts for physics and sociology, were “adopted by educators at more than 100 schools and downloaded more than 30,000 times in their first six months.” WileyPLUS, is “a research-based online learning environment,” featuring more than 300 Wiley titles.

Under the partersnhip, OpenStax College’s two new introductory biology textbooks are scheduled to be available for classes sometime in in fall 2013, with chapters available online for preview. In a statement, Wiley and OpenStax College said they will work with colleges and instructors to set up pilot tests this fall. Wiley currently does not offer biology texts in WileyPLUS.

Joe Heider, senior vice president of Wiley Global Education said that integrating OpenStax content with WileyPLUS' practice and assessment resources, would give students the option of “paying a reduced price for a personalized experience” that is proven to improve learning outcomes."