OpenStax Releases 3 New Free College Textbooks, Will Offer AP Texts

Three new free textbooks have been added to Rice University's OpenStax College collection. This set of open educational resources now includes new volumes on algebra and trigonometry, college algebra and chemistry. Versions are available for Web viewing and as EPUB and PDF files.

The organization provides an online platform to let instructors customize the content to be relevant for their courses by rearranging, modifying and enhancing sections. When teachers use the books, they're encouraged to expand on examples by adding unique context that may have a local application or to address current topics.

Development of the 15 textbooks currently in OpenStax College has been funded by philanthropic education biggies the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the 20 Million Minds Foundation, among others. In 2013 the cost for developing and releasing each book was estimated to be about $500,000.

All of the titles are available under a Creative Commons license, CC BY 4.0. People are allowed to modify, copy and share the content in any form as long as the originators are given credit, the license is linked and the revisions acknowledged.

"Our growth curve has quieted most of those who doubted the sustainability of open education," said Richard Baraniuk, a professor of engineering at Rice who founded and directs OpenStax, in a prepared statement. "Today, six times more students are using our books than were just two years ago, and we are well ahead of our goal to eventually save students $120 million per year."

The university projected that its catalog of textbooks would save students an estimated $25 million during the 2015-2016 school year.

One academic user of the textbooks is Daniel MacDonald, assistant professor of economics at California State University, San Bernardino, said he chose an OpenStax textbook to reduce student expenses and to support accessibility to "high quality education." "Aside from the actual content of the books themselves, OpenStax has a broader effect as a role model. OpenStax shows people how knowledge can and should be generated and shared in our society."

Eventually, the non-profit organization expects to cover the subjects of the 25 most-attended college courses in the country with its free textbooks. The next topic up is microbiology, slated for a spring release. Seven additional titles are planned for 2017.

OpenStax also announced that it would be entering the advanced placement textbook market with three titles: "College Physics for AP Courses" will be published this fall; "Principles of Economics for AP Courses" and "Biology for AP Courses" are due next year. Currently, college-level textbooks are available for those subjects.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.