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Open Educational Resources (OER): OER & Open Textbooks

This guide is designed to educate and inform users on matters relating to open education.

Open Textbook Collections

OER vary in shape and size:  from a test, streaming video or simulation, modules, and software, to a full course or degree program. Often, the task of assembling a comprehensive collection of OER to replace an “all rights reserved” copyright protected textbook can be, at times, difficult and time consuming for teachers. To alleviate the burden, OER are often collected and presented in ways that resemble a traditional textbook to make them easier for instructors to understand and adopt. The term “open textbook” simply means a collection of OER that have been organized to look like a traditional textbook to ease the adoption process.

An open textbook can be defined as, " . . . one that has an open license that makes it free for anyone to use or change" (Open Textbook Library).


Open Textbook Library, an initiative of the University of Minnesota's Center for Open Education, is a catalog of peer-reviewed textbooks licensed to be shared and adapted. Subjects covered include Business, Economics, Social Science, Natural and Physical Science, Humanities, and more.

Founded as a non-profit in 1999 at Rice University, OpenStax provides a catalog of adaptable, peer-reviewed openly licensed textbooks available in digital or print. Subjects covered include Mathematics, Business, Science, Social Sciences, and Humanities.

Open SUNY Textbooks, an initiative of the State University of New York (SUNY) libraries, publishes peer-reviewed open access textbooks written by SUNY faculty.

BCcampus OpenEd Resources is a catalog of open textbooks created and reviewed by British Columbian post-secondary faculty.  


OER vs. Free Library Resources

Educators construct an assembly of all-rights-reserved commercial content, free library resources, and OER in their courses. Although library resources are “free” to students and faculty at an institution, they are not “free” as the institution’s library has to pay to purchase or subscribe to those resources using tuition dollars. In some cases, these resources are not available to the general public. This chart describes the cost to learners and the legal permissions available to teachers and learners for each of these types of educational resources.

David Wiley. Slide. CC BY 4.0