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Open Textbooks, OER & Other Open or Free Resources for Faculty  

A guide to exploring open textbook options for faculty.
Last Updated: Oct 17, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

Open Textbooks Print Page

What is an "Open Textbook"?

"Open Textbook" is a term used for textbooks that are typically:

  1. Free to access online
  2. Low cost to get a print copy
  3. Licensed by the author/creator with rights that are less restrictive than copyright (i.e. all rights reserved). This license typically (though not always) includes the right of any user to copy (digitally) & print the text as well as the right to adapt it as desired for use in a course, as long as authorship is attributed and use is non-commercial.

And if you liked that, here's another, longer video that demonstrates the basics about identifying, selecting and evaluating OERs.

For those new to Open Textbooks

Sources for Finding Open Textbooks and other OER

Kirkwood's own T4LT Podcasters have a great 3-part series on resources for locating OER:

  1. T4LT Sharing Resources Part 1
  2. T4LT Sharing Resources Part 2
  3. T4LT Open Educational Resources Part 3
  • "Adoption of Open Textbooks Quick Start"
    **Start here!**
  • OpenStax College
    OpenStax is a place for instructors who simply want an open textbook that’s ready to go. These textbooks can be adopted as-is, can be edited by faculty adopters through the Connexions website, and are free to use online or downloaded in PDF format. They also have print and bound versions available for purchase (as of now the price varies by title, between around $30 and $60). The quality of these texts is very good. They are authored by faculty and have been carefully edited and peer reviewed. They also have ancillary materials to accompany each text.
  • AMSER: Applied Math and Science Educational Repository
    "AMSER is a portal of educational resources and services built specifically for use by those in Community and Technical Colleges but free for anyone to use. AMSER is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) as part of the National Science Digital Library, and is being created by a team of project partners led by Internet Scout."
  • BCcampus
    A repository of open textbooks, peer reviewed and adapted by faculty in British Columbia, Canada.
  • College Open Textbooks
    Open Textbooks, organized by subject, with faculty reviews
  • CCCOER: Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources
    This consortium website offers a wide variety of resources for faculty looking for OER, workshops, or colleagues to connect with. Kirkwood is a member of this consortium.
  • COERLL: Center for Open Education Resources and Language Learning
    "The COERLL is one of 15 National Foreign Language Resource Centers funded by the US Department of Education. The overall mission of these federally-funded centers is to improve the teaching and learning of foreign languages by producing resources (materials and best practices) that can be profitably employed in a variety of settings."
  • Connexions
    Similar to MERLOT, "a place to view and share educational material made of small knowledge chunks called modules that can be organized as courses, books, reports, etc." Will also host your original content.
  • DiscoverEd
    This is cool! A search engine created by Creative Commons that searches only OER resources.
  • FREE: Federal Resources for Educational Excellence
    Collects and organizes in one place a huge variety and number of resources produced by different U.S. government departments that could be used for educational purposes. Search, or browse by subject or format: Animations, Videos, Primary Documents, Photos. Nicely done!
    "Free and open" online learning materials - mostly bite-size pieces rather than whole textbooks.
  • OER Commons
    Find a wide variety of open resources, mostly in bite-size chunks for easy collection and remixing.
  • Open Course Library
    The Open Course Library is a project to design and share 81 high enrollment, general education, and pre-college *courses*. These materials can be used for face-to-face, hybrid and online delivery. Their goals are: Lower textbook costs for students; Improve course completion rates; Provide new resources for faculty.
  • Open SUNY Textbooks
    State University of New York's open textbook publishing initiative repository.
  • Open Textbook Library
    Hosted by the University of Minnesota, focuses solely on open textbooks, with faculty reviews where available.
  • The Orange Grove Digital Repository and Texts Plus
    The Digital Repository is an "online library of free instructional resources for Florida's educators." Texts Plus focuses specifically on textbooks: "OGT+ delivers access to a wide range of free, online, open textbooks in a choice of bound book formats."
  • Textbook Revolution
    site run by students promoting use of open texts by college professors. *Not all content here is licensed to be "open".*
  • Saylor Academy Bookshelf
    Another site that focuses mostly on open textbooks

Commercial Sites with Open Texts

  • Flat World Knowledge
    **UPDATE** Flat World Knowledge no longer offers free e-books. Prices start at $19.99
  • Textbook\Media
    A resource similar to Flat Word above, aiming to make selected textbooks available at an affordable price with lots of flexibility in both faculty and student preferences.

Other Sources for Open or Free Content: Books

  • Project Gutenberg
    Books in the public domain (most of these are books old enough that their copyright has expired).
  • Open Library
    An open project, user-contributed files and fixes, books available in many different formats. Wonderful online reading interface!
  • Bartleby
    More books in the public domain.
  • Creative Commons: Books
    [this is not peer-reviewed] list of books (not limited to textbooks) available under a Creative Commons License
  • NCBI Bookshelf
    This is a service from the U.S. National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health. It provides free access to over 700 texts in life science and healthcare.
  • FeedBooks
    Feedbooks sells e-books but also has and links to a variety of free books in the public domain. They describe themselves as "a cloud publishing and distribution service, connected to a large ecosystem of reading systems and social networks." Find the free books by clicking "Public Domain" at the top of the page, or browse the "Original Books" link for more unique titles.
  • Google Books
    The "advanced book search" option lets you search only those books whose full contents can be viewed online. *Note: There is not a print option for Google Books.*
  • Classic Reader
    A site with many classic, public-domain ebooks for download. This site is maintained by an individual small business.

Other Sources for Open or Free Content: Music, Films & other Media

  • Creative Commons: Media Search
    [this is not peer-reviewed] Media search (includes images, music, video, websites)
  • Internet Archive
    Free Movies, Music, Books & Wayback Machine: exceptional resource!
  • HippoCampus
    Materials are free but may not be copied or transformed.
  • PBS Video
    PBS has free streaming video of many of their programs. (Free but not open.)

Resources for Creating & Hosting Your Own Textbook

In addition to the resources below, don't forget that library resources are high quality and either free or already paid for! Content on these LibGuides pages can be embedded or linked to, and electronic resources such as magazine and journal articles may be linked to directly from ANGEL or your course website. Email for help with using the following alternatives:

  • Placing content on ANGEL 
  • Placing videos on Kirkwood Videos on Demand
  • Using e-journal articles at the Library
  • Modifying an Open Textbook
    Details 6 basic steps to modifying and hosting an existing open textbook or other OER.
  • OpenStax CNX: Localization and OER
    "In the context of OER, localization refers to the process of taking educational resources developed for one context and adapting them for other contexts. These contexts can, for example, be geographical, pedagogical, political, or technical. The practice of localization encompasses more than the translation of materials into a local language or swapping a photo to reflect a culture. Localization is at the heart of the OER process—it exemplifies diversity, openness, and reusability."
  • AcademicPub
    "Gives educators the ability to create their own custom books — in print and e-book format...[and] provides real-time copyright clearance."
  • Blended Learning Toolkit
    **NEW** This site helps you organize learning objectives, resources and assignments for your course. Especially helpful for blended courses.
  • BookBuilder
    Another great book-building tool with nice features such as a text reader and student annotation tool.
  • Kirkwood's eLearning
    Kirkwood's ANGEL Course Management System could conceivably be used to host any type of content you create, including what amounts to a textbook, although it doesn't have near the specific functionality for a "book" format that the above sites give you.
  • Google Sites
    Google Sites has a little more functionality than ANGEL does in formatting a site to look the way you want it too. It also has a function to make the site private so that only your students can access it. It doesn't however allow each individual student to access personal information such as grades. The automatic Table of Contents function would be a nice way to organize lots of chunks of information you collected from different sources.
  • Engrade
    Engrade is a free and secure online gradebook. It has a few course management system-type features, including an assignment calendar and an attendance tracker. Why include it here? It could round out the course management-type functions you might miss by moving your content to another format, such as Google Sites or Kirkwood's Website Manager.
  • PressBooks
    "Simple Book Publishing: PressBooks makes it easy to create all the beautifully-designed files you need to publish your books and ebooks: PDF for print and print-on-demand including Amazon’s CreateSpace, MOBI for Kindle, and EPUB for Apple’s iBooks, Nook, Kobo and others."

Helping Students Use Their Digital Textbook

  • Getting to Know a Digital Textbook  Article written by Dr. Terence Cavanaugh, professor at the Univeristy of North Florida detailing ways to make your open digital textbook more familiar and helpful to students by showing students how they can use free online programs to create their own audio textbooks, create study notes from their text and more

Author of this Guide

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Kate Hess

Faculty OER Adoption Program

Kirkwood Community College now has an OER Adoption Program for faculty. To read more about it see the complete program description.

To see what your fellow faculty OER adopters are talking about, see our OER @ Kirkwood Faculty Blog.

And here is the SUNY OER-101 Course that we are using in conjunction with Kirkwood's OER Program.

Any questions about the OER Adoption Program may be directed to Kate (see contact info above). Many individuals and departments at Kirkwood lend their support to the adoption of OER, including instructional designers at KCELT and Distance Learning, and Learning Services associates who can help evaluate the accessibility of an open resource.


OEC - Open Education Consortium

Kirkwood Community College is a proud member of the Open Education Consortium!

Other Helpful Resources


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