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Affordable Course Materials

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

Open Textbooks

Illinois State University is a member of the Open Education Network, an organization that "promotes access, affordability, and student success through the use of open textbooks." The Open Education Network manages the Open Textbook Library, a repository of free textbooks.

Open Textbook Sources

Authoring Open Textbooks

Open Textbook FAQ*

What is an open textbook?
A text that is free to use and openly licensed so other people can use and modify it. Usually digital but can be print.

What does "openly licensed" mean?
Many open textbooks are licensed through Creative Commons. Read more about the licenses.

Do I need permission to use one?
Whatever license the book has should tell you how you can use it, so you don't need to seek permission. If you aren't sure how to interpret a license, contact us at Milner Library!

Are these quality textbooks?
Faculty are the ultimate judge of whether or not a resource is of high enough quality and relevance to use in their course. Many open textbooks have gone through peer review during production. Many have also been reviewed after publication.

Are ancillary resources available, like slides and solution manuals?
Sometimes. Just like with commercial textbooks, it depends on the publisher. There may be a fee to access the supplemental materials.

Do I have to read the textbook online?
Not necessarily. Many open textbooks can be downloaded as PDFs and printed.

Can I modify an open textbook by adding content or only using pieces of it?
Yes, if the book has a Creative Commons license that allows for the creation of derivatives.

How do I edit an open textbook?
Start with this resource, contact the scholarly communication librarian with further questions.

*Adapted from the Open Textbook Library FAQ

Examples at ISU

Open Textbooks are already in use at ISU! Below are a few courses that use them:

CHE 141, General Chemistry II, uses OpenStax Chemistry, 2e:

Cover of Chemistry 2e

BSC 101, Fundamental Concepts in Biology, also uses an OpenStax textbook, Concepts of Biology:

Cover image of Concepts of Biology

Paying for an Open Texbook?

There are a few platforms that advertise low cost textbooks for students. Often, these platforms take open textbooks and add supplementary materials to them, like homework questions, PowerPoint presentations, or study guides. These additions are not free and require the student to pay about $35 for a copy of the book and ancillary materials. 

For example, you can find The Basics of General, Organic, and Biological Chemistry for $34.95-- but this resource is also available for free in the Open Textbook Library.

Before instructing your students to purchase the paid resource, ask yourself if you will be using the supplements to a degree that warrants the cost. If not, go open!