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Free textbook alternatives

This guide for instructors explains the effects of high textbook prices on student success and offers guidance on finding and evaluating free textbook alternatives and other open educational resources.

Why do we need alternatives to conventionally published textbooks?

 According to a 2018 survey of students at public colleges and universities in Florida, the high cost of textbooks impacts student success in a variety of ways:

infographic showing impact of high cost of textbooks: 64% of students don't buy required textbooks, 43% take fewer courses, 41% don't register for a course, and 23% drop a course

Furthermore, in a 2020 report from the Student PIRGs, out of 4000 students surveyed from over 80 institutions, 25% reported having to work extra hours to afford course materials, 19% made course decisions based on the cost of materials, and 11% went without meals in order to afford course materials. 90% of these students worried that their grades would be affected by not having required course materials.

Benefits of using online open texts, besides cost:

  • Most open texts can be adapted to fit your specific course and assignment needs.

  • Open texts can be updated or supplemented periodically to keep up with new developments in the field.

  • If your textbook is online, you can start using it from the first day of class: no need to provide extra time for students to buy a copy!

See also this literature review of empirical studies on the effects of use of OERs, including open textbooks.

Evaluating free textbook alternatives

Free textbook alternatives, just like conventionally published textbooks, vary in quality. The directories listed below each have a mechanism for reviewing textbooks to be included.

The UNT Libraries have non-circulating print copies of some of the textbooks from OpenStax available for inspection by faculty members considering adopting them. Please contact John Martin for more information.

Finding free textbook alternatives

The books found in the directories below can be read online for free, and many can also be downloaded in various formats. Most are made available under a Creative Commons license that allow you to redistribute it and possibly even modify it for your own use. Be sure to check the terms of use for the specific book you are using.

Instructors may wish to download a book and make it available through Canvas to ensure that a link to an online version does not break during the semester. If you do so, please indicate the CC license that is included with the book on your Canvas site.

Instructors may wish to download a book and make it available through Canvas to ensure that a link to an online version does not break during the semester.

Ready to create your own open textbook?

If you're ready to create a textbook and make it free to read online and free to download, there are a couple of options available specifically for UNT faculty:

  1. If you'd like to create a textbook for use in a UNT course, you may want to submit a proposal to UNT Open Texts, a collaborative effort of the UNT Press and the University Libraries to support the publication of peer-reviewed, open access textbooks for use in UNT courses. 
  2. If your project doesn't fit the parameters of UNT Open Texts, then you might try a tool called Pressbooks.  UNT Libraries now has an instance of Pressbooks set up for faculty use. A sample of an OTN Pressbooks textbook can be seen here: Fundamentals of Business (2018). 

Contact to learn more about either of these opportunities.

Note that if you decided to use material that you authored in your own classroom, you'll need to follow the procedure for getting authorization to do so.

Here are some other resources that could be helpful:

Additional Links