4 Sources Of Low Cost Textbooks And Educational Resources


This contributed post was written by a bookboon employee

4 Sources Of Low Cost Online Textbooks And Educational Resources

Online education and eTextbooks are becoming increasingly popular amongst students, teachers and professors all over the world. According to a 2012 survey conducted by The Digital Reader, 43.7% of US students are currently using digital textbooks.

The World Wide Web provides a more flexible approach to learning for both educators and students. Teachers and professors can create their own personalized material which fits their lectures and students have around-the-clock access to cheap if not free online textbooks.

A survey by the independent student organization Student PIRGs (Public Interest Research Groups) found that open textbooks are offering savings of approximately 80% compared to traditional textbook options for students, schools and universities. The days of heavy, expensive and generalized textbooks could soon be over. This is why it is worth taking a look at what resources there are for educators and students when it comes to free online education.

1. Bookboon.com

Bookboon.com is an independent eBook publisher headquartered in London, UK. Founded in 2005, they currently offer more than 600 university textbooks which can be downloaded for free without registration. The textbooks are written exclusively for bookboon.com by professors. Therefore all books are unique works designed for university programs.

The precondition for publishing a textbook with bookboon.com is that you hold a Ph.D and go through a peer review process. The authors are paid a percentage of the revenue generated by the employer branding ads which are placed in the books to ensure that these remain free for students. The amount of ads in the books is limited to 15% of the content. The campaigns are mostly placed by companies trying to recruit students.

Bookboon.com’s books are currently available in 7 languages and are divided up into 9 main categories. These include: economics & finance, engineering, IT & programming, statistics & mathematics, management and career advice. According to bookboon.com, a lot of the topics covered rest on suggestions by professors. Last year, users downloaded 42 million books from bookboon

The advantages of bookboon.com

  • Students, teachers and professors can download more than 600 textbooks for free
  • The publisher offers a wide selection of books in many different study fields and 7 languages
  • Educators can use the books as primary and secondary literature for their lectures
  • Professors can suggest topics for new textbooks and create their own text fitting the needs of their students
  • All books are peer reviewed and written by professors, a fact that indicates their high quality

The disadvantages of bookboon.com

  • The books are published in a secure PDF format which may not be edited or copied directly
  • The books are financed by employer branding ads in the books

2. Flat World Knowledge

Flat World Knowledge, based in New York City, offers affordable, accessible and personalized open student textbooks. Their online catalogue currently contains 119 peer reviewed textbooks written by expert authors.

The textbooks cover topics such as business & economics, science, math, humanities and social sciences, as well as professional and applied sciences. With 71 books, the business and economics category contains the most of FWK’s titles.

This platform offers educators the opportunity to modify the openly accessible textbooks to better fit their courses. There is also the option to send FWK suggestions regarding publishing a textbook in their teaching field.

According to FWK, their textbooks are currently being used by over 300.000 students, in more than 4.000 classrooms and at 2.500 schools worldwide.

The advantages of Flat World Knowledge

  • Students gain lifetime access to course content for a low annual fee or at no charge
  • The books are peer reviewed which guarantees their high educational quality
  • Teachers and professors can tailor the content to satisfy their curriculum and match their syllabus
  • Info for potential authors: FWK compensates their authors with royalties on the book sales
  • FWK supports the increasing number of students moving towards digital learning options

The disadvantages of Flat World Knowledge

  • To use the full potential of FWK, students still have to pay an annual fee.
  • The range of 119 textbooks is quite limited and a wider variety of available study fields would be desirable.

3. OpenStax College

OpenStax College is a nonprofit organization which offers free and peer reviewed textbooks. This online education resource is an initiative of Rice University (Houston, TX) and is made possible through the support of several philanthropic foundations.

They currently offer 5 textbooks but are working on 8 more based on a grant given by Laura and John Arnold Foundation. The books are written by professional content developers and can be modified by teachers and professors.

In addition, the website provides printed versions of the books at a small fee plus online homework resources, online assessments, and online tutorials.

The advantages of OpenStax College

  • There might be only a limited number of textbooks available but these can be downloaded for free
  • The initiative actively involves their readers by offering them the opportunity to post corrections, suggest examples for difficult concepts, or volunteer as an editor or author
  • With StaxDash they offer a live update on the status of their books
  • The books are peer reviewed and written by professors which makes sure that the books’ quality meets the high educational standards of a university

The disadvantages of OpenStax College

  • Currently, there are only 5 books available

4. Boundless

Founded in 2011, Boundless offers openly licensed and free educational content for university students. The Boston-based online textbook source offers 18 textbooks in a total of 18 college subjects, e.g., chemistry, marketing, algebra, biology, history, management and psychology.

Schools, students and the general public are free to share and remix the textbooks under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA) license. The website also offers premium features, including flashcards, study guides, and quizzes. However, to use these features the user has to register for the site.

According to Boundless, their material has been used by more than 500.000 students, and at more than half of U.S. colleges.

The advantages of Boundless

  • The website purely focuses on open source educational materials, which saves students money
  • The platform offers many interesting features such as an interactive notebook, flashcards, study guides, and quizzes

The disadvantages of Boundless

  • The textbooks’ content is not original. It is based on open access content created by educators and institutions over the last 20 years
  • Before the students can use the additional features, they have to register for the Boundless website
  • It is not essential for the authors to be professors, which could jeopardize the quality