Open Textbook Fact Sheet

What does it mean when a textbook is “open”?

A textbook becomes “open” when its copyright-holder grants usage rights to the public through an open license, which typically includes the right to access, reformat and customize it at no additional cost.

It’s important to note that the open textbook author, rather than the publisher, retains the copyright to the content. The author can grant, via a Creative Commons license, a very specific use policy that allows for the 5 R’s (redistribute, remix, retain, reuse and revise).

This means that a faculty member who adopts the open textbook can also adapt it to meet their own needs and then share it back to the community.

Are open textbooks only available online, or can students print hard copies?

Both hard copy and online formats are available for open textbooks. Hard copies look much like traditional texts. The primary difference is the price: Open textbooks are also accessible online at no cost, and the hard copies are optional and affordably priced. The OSU Beaver Store provides access to hard copy open textbooks as well as links to the digital versions.

This gives students a choice of which version to use: the free/open online version, the free/open PDF, the free/open version for their e-reader, or the low-cost print version, which reflects the cost of printing.

How many open textbooks are available?

Thousands of open textbooks already exist and more are on the way. There are more than enough open textbooks to replace publisher textbooks in most of Oregon State’s Baccalaureate Core classes and in many other lower-division courses. Oregon State faculty are currently collaborating on projects to both author and adapt open textbooks.

What funding is available for OSU faculty who want to implement open textbooks?

OSU’s Open Educational Resources Unit currently has funding available to support faculty who would like to replace a publisher’s textbook with one that is open and can be customized to fit the specific learning outcomes of a course.

Do open textbooks match the quality of a traditional publisher’s text?

The quality is comparable to any other textbook. Many open textbooks are developed through traditional peer review; experts vet other textbooks. As with any textbook, the instructor is the final judge of whether an open textbook meets the needs of the course. The OERU has regular calls for proposals and funding available for faculty to engage in a peer review of an open textbook they are considering.

How long do students have access to an open textbook?

Open textbooks do not disappear at the end of the term. Unlike publisher’s digital editions or e-books, open textbooks do not have “disappearing ink.” Access to open textbooks is always free and open. Anyone can keep a copy for as long as they want and continue to access updated online copies.

Do many higher education institutions use open textbooks?

Oregon State is a member of the Open Textbook Network, which consists of more than 200 active campuses. These institutions include Purdue, Rutgers, the University of Arizona, the University of Massachusetts, Kansas State, Ohio State, the University of Iowa, the University of Hawaii, the University of Minnesota, the University of Washington, Virginia Tech, Temple, and the University of Oklahoma. All Oregon community colleges are also a part of the OTN.

The OTN at the University of Minnesota maintains the Open Textbook Library. This library is the premiere resource for peer-reviewed academic textbooks. The textbooks in the Open Textbook Library have been funded, published and licensed to be freely used, adapted and distributed. In most cases, these books have been reviewed by faculty from a variety of institutions to assess their quality.

These books can be downloaded for no cost or printed at low cost. All textbooks are either used at multiple higher education institutions, or they are affiliated with an institution, scholarly society or professional organization.

How can I learn more about open textbooks?

Our team can guide you through the process. You can call or Zoom with us. Please contact OERU Director Stefanie Buck ( to make an appointment.