Open Textbooks Are the Solution to Our Textbook Crisis

  • Open textbooks provide an exciting alternative to traditional books that can save students money and improve the educational experience.
  • Open textbooks are just like traditional textbooks except that the authors have decided to publish them under an open copyright license.
  • Open textbooks are available free online and for very low cost in print.
  • Recent research has shown that open textbooks are as effective, if not more effective, than traditionally-published course materials.
  • Individual faculty members can customize open textbooks to make them better fit their classes.
  • Open textbooks are just one example of Open Educational Resources (OER). In addition to books, OER includes open versions of study guides, practice tests, problem sets, exams, videos, and other classroom tools.

Comparing Traditional and Open Textbooks

Open Textbooks Checklist

Examples of Open Textbooks

Open Textbooks Can Save Millions for Students

  • Open textbooks have the potential to save students nationwide up to a billion dollars per year.
  • In subjects where traditional textbooks cost $100-$300, switching a single classroom of 100 students to an open textbook can save students up to $30,000.
  • At the University of Massachusetts, a small pilot program to help classes switch to open textbooks saved UMass students more than $1 million in just four years.
  • At Kansas State University, an open textbooks program run by the library, Provost’s office, and the Center for Advancement of Teaching and Learning has saved students over $1.1 million.
  • Tidewater Community College has developed a business administration degree program that relies exclusively on open course materials. Eliminating expensive textbooks has reduced the cost of attendance for participating students by 25%.

Open Textbooks Can Lead to Higher Student Performance

  • Open licenses, such as the popular Creative Commons license, allow professors to adapt and customize a book’s content. That means professors can edit an open textbook to fit their class – adding or removing chapters, changing problem sets, and more.
  • Data from Tidewater Community College’s textbook-free degree program shows notable increases in student completion and performance when faculty members become more engaged with the classroom materials.
  • A journal-published analysis of over 16,000 students at public institutions showed that students using open materials perform as well, if not better, than their peers using traditional course materials.
  • A 2012 survey of students found that 95% rated Open Educational Resources (OER) as "easy to use" and 78% responded that OER "provided access to more up-to-date material than is available in my print textbooks."

FAQs About Open Textbooks

A: Used books, book rentals, and other programs can help, but open textbooks are by far the most effective way to save money for your students.

A: Ultimately, each professor is the best judge of whether or not a particular book is right for their class. Many high-quality open textbooks are available right now – written by leaders in their fields, peer-reviewed, and professionally designed. In addition, a number of studies have found that OER are as or more effective than traditional books.

A: If the book you are currently using is published by a major publisher, then the answer is probably no. Traditional publishers rely on their ability to sell their books for a healthy profit.

A: There are websites that aggregate faculty reviews of open textbooks and can help professors find books for their subjects. You can find a few of them here.

A: There are several open textbook companies that follow the typical process of authoring, editing, and publishing books. In other cases, authors or teams of authors are funded by grants from foundations, universities, or the government.

A: No. Both are digital and can be used on laptops, tablets, and smartphones. However, typical e-books are still quite expensive and have many drawbacks, like access that expires and limits on printing. By contrast, open textbooks are free online, never expire, and have no restrictions on printing.

A: Yes! There are many foundations, states, companies, and institutions that will pay professors to write open textbooks. Professors can even self-publish an open textbook by releasing it under an open license.