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Scholarly Communication and Open Access: Open Textbooks

What Are Open Textbooks?

blue sky with the words "free the textbook" and open textbooks flying around

"Flat World Knowledge: Open Textbooks" by is licensed under CC BY SA 2.0

Open textbooks are materials that are freely available, usually through a Creative Commons license, to download, modify, and print in various formats.

Why should faculty adopt an open textbook?

Open textbooks are more affordable than commercially available textbooks and enable student education budgets to stretch further, giving students greater flexibility in their education choices. Faculty can readily customize open textbooks to better meet their local teaching and learning needs. Lastly, open textbooks provide pricing, flexibility and customization advantages that commercially available textbooks currently do not provide.

Open Textbooks

Open textbooks are a subset of open educational resources. It is important to clarify that not all online textbooks are open--online textbooks that are open must meet the 5 Rs requirements listed above.

Why are open textbooks important?

Textbook costs are unsustainable.  There are numerous studies and statistics that tell us current landscape is problematic.

  • Average student costs for textbooks are estimated at about $1,207 annually (Trends in College Pricing 2013 - College Board Report)

  • In a 2014 survey of more than 2000 students, 65% reported that they never purchased a course textbook because of its high cost (US Public Interest Research Group Education Fund report 2014)

  • College textbook prices rose 82% between 2003 and 2013; triple the rate of inflation during the same time span (Consumer Price Index Database 2014 - Bureau of Labor Statistics)


Where Can I Find Open Textbooks?

Open Textbook Library
Created by the University of Minnesota to support development of high-quality, peer reviewed open textbooks in various subjects.

Initiated by Rice University, their free textbooks are developed and peer-reviewed to ensure they meet the scope and sequence requirements of college courses. These books were developed following traditional textbook publishing methods, including peer review, editorial support, and creation of ancillary content.  Available in multiple formats.

BC Campus OpenEd
Open textbooks for the 40 highest enrolled first- and second-year subject areas in the British Columbia's public, post-secondary system.

College Open Textbooks
This effort funded by the Hewlett Foundation, seeks to drive adoption of open textbooks. Many of the books shared on this resources are reviewed.

SUNY Open Textbooks
A pilot open access textbook publishing initiative focusing on high-quality, cost-effective course resources by engaging faculty as authors and peer-reviewers.

Saylor Academy
Collection of freely available open textbooks for download, online reading, and sharing.

OER Commons
Provides college-level open textbooks from higher education institutions around the world.

MERLOT Open Textbook
Multimedia Educational Resources for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT) is a curated resource of thousands of learning objects, including free and online textbooks.

Boundless works with experts to compile web-based openly available content into the same general arrangement of textbooks. You can search the ISBN for your current textbook and see what content Boundless would use to replace it.

Global Textbook Project
High-level texts hosted or created by the University of Georgia.

A project of the Wikimedia Foundation, this collection of group written textbooks in a variety of sources follows rules similar to Wikipedia.