What are Open Access Textbooks?
Open access textbooks are, by and large, books written by faculty and published online by institutions of higher learning and business enterprises to be provided for free to all who would like to read it. Open textbooks are usually protected by copyright under Creative Commons, allowing other faculty to use the textbook, or parts of it, however the teaching faculty sees fit. Some open textbooks have costs, but those costs tend to be fairly modest and usually involve printing the textbook or downloading the textbook to a device. Here are some of the varied characteristics of open textbooks.
What are Open Textbooks? From California State University’s Affordable Learning Solutions, this page gives a great overview of open textbooks and some supporting videos from faculty who have taken on the open textbook for their classes. Educause has a great short article from March 2011, “7 Things You Should Know About Open Textbook Publishing (pdf)”
With the price of textbooks consistently rising, many students are finding it difficult to afford their textbooks. Faculty are not seeing any significant changes to “new” editions of textbooks, and these “new” editions close the used book market. Take a look at the report from Student PIRGs (Public Interest Research Groups) where they surveyed faculty about the textbook industry. Here is a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education concerning the trend of students just skipping the purchase of the textbook. Here is the Student PIRGs campaign, Make Textbooks Affordable.
So, with students, affordability and whether it is even used in the class are major issues for them. For faculty, the issues are likely affordability for students, whether they really need all of the add-ons provided in a bundled textbook, and whether the textbook really addresses the concepts and topics being addressed in the class along with the overuse of “new” editions. How much could actually have changed in the last year in the field for a foundation course in Calculus?
Open Textbooks and Open Educational Resources (OER)
Here is a sampling of open textbook libraries and organizations, providing us access to these varied books which faculty could adopt for a course in whole or in parts.
- Here at this site, we gain access to Merlot’s (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching) main page for open textbooks. Merlot also contains many OER on top of its textbook collection.
- The College Open Textbooks Collaborative, “a collection of twenty-nine educational non-profit and for-profit organizations, affiliated with more than 200 colleges, is focused on driving awareness and adoptions of open textbooks to more than 2000 community and other two-year colleges. This includes providing training for instructors adopting open resources, peer reviews of open textbooks, and mentoring online professional networks that support for authors opening their resources, and other services.” From the website.
- The Open Access Textbooks project is a Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) grant awarded to the Florida Distance Learning Consortium to study and develop sustainable models in open textbook publishing. Florida has already developed under this project, the Orange Grove Digital Repository and in conjunction with University Press of Florida, Orange Grove Texts.
- The Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources is an organization dedicated to “expanding access to education by promoting awareness and adoption open education resources (OER).” From the website. One can find a number of open textbooks and OER from this website. It is a member of the OpenCourseWare Consortium.
- Connexions “is a dynamic digital educational ecosystem consisting of an educational content repository and a content management system optimized for the delivery of educational content. Connexions is one of the most popular open education sites in the world. Its more than 17,000 learning objects or modules in its repository and over 1000 collections (textbooks, journal articles, etc.) are used by over 2 million people per month.” “Connexions' support has come from Rice University, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Maxfield Foundation, and Twenty Million Minds Foundation" as well as others.
- Related to Connexions, is OpenStax College, where one can kind free textbooks developed and peer reviewed by educators to meet the needs of students and maintain quality. OpenStax College is an initiative of Rice University. The books currently available at the OpenStax College are here.
- Open Textbook Library is maintain by the University of Minnesota and provided open access textbooks. Its criteria for having it in the library are that the book is complete, suitable for adoption OUTSIDE of the author's institution, available in print if desired, and openly licensed. It draws books from a number of the sites listed here, as well as others. There are also calls for faculty to be peer reviewers of open access textbooks.
- Textbook Revolution is a student -run website promoting the use of free educational resources and free open textbooks. The fastest way to get a look at the open textbooks on this site is to Look under the heading BOOKS, and browse them BY LICENSE. This will show you the books in public domain or under Creative Commons License.
Some organizations help faculty build course materials and course “textbooks” all with transparent pricing. The faculty will know how much the book is going to cost the students as faculty create the “book” or other resources. Two examples of such organization are AcademicPub and DynamicBooks. These organizations have already licensed content from publishers and tell faculty up front what it will cost the student. These are not truly open access textbooks, but they are another example of the solutions coming out concerning the price of books.
Questions? Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about finding the right open access textbook in your area, or want to be able use open access textbooks in your courses. Also, if you have more resources for open access textbooks, please send them my way.