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Open Textbooks

What are Open Textbooks?

Open textbooks are typically authored by faculty and published on the web with the support of universities or new commercial companies. This new business model enables free online access to textbooks.

Open textbooks are usually governed by Creative Commons licenses that enable users to download, customize or print the textbook without expressed written consent of the author. In contrast, new commercial companies provide free access to the textbook content online, while charging lower prices for print products and supplemental services.

The EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative has provided a nice overview of the 7 Things You Should Know About Open Textbook Publishing (pdf) by Judy Baker and Jacky Hood from Foothill College (California Community College).

How Can I Find Open Textbooks?

The MERLOT collection has over 2,500 open textbooks. Click on a link to your subject area and you will get a list of results for open textbooks in the subject and its sub-disciplines. The MERLOT indexing tools enable easy browsing and searching throughout the entire collection of open textbooks.

Along with MERLOT, check out these other great open textbook sources:

Why use Open Textbooks?

The publishing industry in general is going through upheaval relative to the sustainability of the print publishing model in this new day of digital information access. As a result, the costs for what has been the standard for college course materials – the printed textbook – has become a major source of expense for students, and for some, a financial barrier to college completion. According to a study of the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the annual average amount spent by college students on textbooks is 26% of the cost of tuition at a public, four-year university. The College Board estimates the annual cost of textbooks and supplies for 2011-12 at over $1000 per student. Open textbooks are one part of the solution to managing the costs of learning materials for students.