Skip to Main Content

Affordable Course Materials

This guide provides faculty with information about affordable course materials and open educational resources.

Using Library E-books as Course Textbooks

You may be able to use an e-book provided by the library as your course textbook. If you do, you could link to the book or specific parts of the book in your Canvas site. If you use an e-book through Milner, the library would pay for the access.

Using a library-licensed/purchased e-book has the potential to save students a lot of money, and sometimes it doesn't cost the library very much. For example, a Communications course has used the book Critical Media Studies: An Introduction, which would have cost each student about $45 to get their own copy. The library bought an e-book copy for $116, and that copy was accessed over 1,200 times in 2019!

Since Fall 2020, Milner Library has been purchasing electronic editions of many textbooks assigned by ISU instructors. Check out the most recent semester's e-textbook list.


There are a few considerations to using e-books as a course text:

  • The e-books licensed by Milner are drawn from the list of text adoptions submitted to the Registrar's Office by their deadline.
  • If you're interested in adopting a new text and having a library-provided e-book is a priority for you, please contact your subject librarian before the Registrar's Office deadline.
  • The library can only purchase/license an e-book that has an institutional option. This means we typically pay a lot more than an individual would if they bought the same book as a Kindle version on Amazon. Sometimes this cost is too great for the library to assume, but it is always worth asking your subject librarian if it's possible to license the book.
  • E-books are available from a number of vendors and publishers. Accordingly, the experience of using and reading an e-book is not standardized. Some e-books can be downloaded entirely and easily as a PDF, others can only be downloaded/printed in portions, and some must be read within the browser.
  • Milner provides access to thousands of e-books through separate platforms, and we make each book searchable through the library catalog. This guide contains more information about finding e-books through Milner's resources.
  •  E-books usually have different levels of access. Some may allow only one person to use the book at a time (simulates a print book scenario), some allow for a limited number of people at a time (say, 3), some allow for an unlimited number of concurrent users, some e-books "expire" after it's been accessed a certain number of times. If you see an e-book in the library's collection already and want to use it as your course text, let your subject librarian know; they will check our access level to ensure it is appropriate for the needs of your class. If it is not, or if you want your librarian to license a new e-book for the collection, we can check with the vendor on pricing options for greater access to the e-book. This ensures that your students will not be turned away when they try to do a reading, if the access levels are too low.

In sum, library-provided e-books can be an affordable and convenient solution for a course text, but there are many variables. It's best to contact your subject librarian early in the process as you can.

E-book Databases

These aren't the only databases that include e-books, but are a good place to look for titles. You can also search in the library catalog to find e-books.