Affordable Textbooks

National landscape

The costs of college is going up every year, and it's not just tuition that weighs on student's minds and bank accounts. According to the College Board, undergraduates spend an average of $1,200 on textbooks annually. Faced with these costs, the academic impact is seen in classrooms across the country--many students choose to not buy a required text, take fewer courses, and some even drop or fail a course completely.

Local landscape

Rod Library’s Digital Scholarship Librarian, Ellen Neuhaus, has been leading the conversation on UNI Campus for two years.  In 2015 the Managing Director of the Open Textbook Network (OTN), Sarah Cohen, visited UNI to discuss the benefits of the OTN. In August of 2016, Rod Library joined the OTN on behalf of UNI and has since begun adopting the concept across campus. One of the major benefits of adopting this concept is the savings UNI is able to pass along to the students.

UNI Students' Perspectives on Textbook Costs video, click here.

University of Northern Iowa (UNI) students during 2017/2018 saved $220,388 in textbook costs due to open textbook adoptions. The UNI cost saving number was based on the local figure, $900 per year, reported on UNI’s Admissions website. These cost savings in 2017-2018 came from twenty eight classes with a total enrollment of 1,959 students. Some of the UNI departments using open textbooks were Biology, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Communication Studies, Geography, Languages and Literatures, Mathematics, Teaching, and Technology. 

During 2016/2017 University of Northern Iowa (UNI) students saved $129,715 in textbook costs due to open textbook adoptions. The cost savings came from thirteen classes with a total enrollment of 1,153 students. Some of the first UNI departments to take advantage of open textbooks were Biology, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Languages and Literatures, Mathematics, and Technology.  

These books were one less book a student had to purchase for their classes. Instead, the students were able to access these textbooks free online.

What are open textbooks?

Open textbooks are typically authored by faculty and are usually governed by Creative Commons licenses that enable users to download, customize or print the textbook without expressed written consent fo the author. 

How do I find quality open textbooks?

Search the Open Textbook Library to find open textbooks which have been reviewed by faculty from a variety of colleges and universities 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 affiliated with an institution, scholarly society, or professional organization. 

Services performed by the Digital Scholarship unit

If you plan to use an open textbook, please let us know. At the end of the academic year, we will be reaching out to the campus community to identify all textbooks used during the academic year. Once we identify the instructor and course, we will look up course enrollment numbers to calculate the cost savings to students. The savings figure will be added to the Open Textbook Network cost saving number. 

We will separate your open textbook into sections/chapters so you can place links to individual chapters in your eLearning module or email chapters/sections to your students. 


Jamal White

Tristan Bernhard

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