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Textbook Alternatives: Basic Information

Of interest to faculty and students looking for alternatives to costly textbooks.


Open Access: From the Oxford English Dictionary: Unrestricted admission or access... an unimpeded approach. Also: the theory or policy of being accessible to all.

Open textbooks are textbooks distributed free digitally under an open license. The key feature of an open license is that it permits users to make copies of the textbook and translate it into different formats.

Creative Commons License: CC licenses help creators  retain copyright while allowing others to copy, distribute, and make some uses of their work — at least non-commercially.

Electronic books are those which include text and images that can be read using a computer or reading device.  They can be purchased one at a time. They can be purchased in bundles with continuing costs for hosting. They can be Major Reference Works or works of fiction.

Research Guide from Iowa State University with everything you've ever wanted to know and more!


Thanks to Frederic Murray, Assistant Professor at Southwestern Oklahoma State University who presented on this topic at the Library Technology Conference 2010.




Electronic open-access textbooks are out there in large numbers and growing. This guide will point faculty and students to alternatives to costly textbooks. Some are from sketchy sources including illegal or bit-torrent sites. Some will be from highly reputable sites from which faculty can customize textbooks by chapters or assign the whole open-access textbook.


Organizations and companies making electronic content available and searchable. Some free, some not.

UST Bookstores

Traditional and helpful access to the adopted textbooks of the University of St. Thomas. Requesting early (before the term) and they will pull the books for you and hold them for you to pick up. This enables you to be better assured of getting the needed book and maybe even getting the used copy!

Creative License

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Merrie Davidson
O'Shaughnessy-Frey Library, LIB 1.53