Open textbooks are academic texts published with an open copyright licence. This means they can usually be shared and freely accessed online, and that they can be edited or modified. So updating or adapting a portion of the text to reflect recent research or tailoring reading for a specific course is possible.
This applies to everything in the text including images, figures and diagrams. Open textbooks are made available in a variety of file formats to allow for this adaption.
Below are a list of some of the key places to look for open textbooks. Some sites are discovery hubs searching a range of repositories containing texts and supplementary materials. Others are the host repositories, and feature curated texts accompanied by academic review.
Directory of Open Access Books
This discovery hub searches for open access texts in publishers such as Springer & Taylor and Francis. Advanced search filters allow you to limit your search by licence type, year and publisher.
Open Textbook Library
The Open TextBook Library is based at the University of Minnesota. It provides lists of open textbooks in a range of disciplines, accompanied by reviews from staff at academic institutions. It is a requirement of the site that texts are available to download in a range of formats and that all books submitted are either used at multiple higher education institutions; or affiliated with an institution or scholarly/professional organisation.
Based at the University of British Columbia this collection includes around 320 accessible open textbooks reviewed by academic faculty, and shared in a range of subject areas. The site also includes some extra materials, such as quizzes, slides and videos, as well as help guides and documentation on using and adapting open textbooks.
Collated by the non profit Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education, this site is a discovery hub for open textbooks and open courseware.
OAPEN (Open Access Publishing in European Networks) is an organisation which promotes open access in Europe. The OAPEN Library searches for and hosts thousands of freely accessible academic books, mainly in the area of humanities and social sciences drawn from scholarly publishers and repositories.
Knowledge Unlatched is an initiative where libraries work together to enable open access book publishing. In this model, books are made available when libraries share the cost of the funding fee. Books are available on a Creative Commons licence via OAPEN as a fully downloadable PDF.
Project Guttenberg contains over 60,000 free eBooks which can be read online or downloaded. It specialises in older works where copyright has expired, and contains many classics of world literarure. Books on this site have been digitised, rather than designed as textbooks.
This site contains more than 5,000 books and book chapters, with a strength in physical and health sciences. Texts are peer reviewed and published using a Gold Open Access model under the Creative Commons licences.
OpenStax is hosted at Rice University and contains peer-reviewed, open textbooks in the areas of Maths, Science, Social Sciences and Humanities. Texts are supplemented with instructor resources and student learning tools.
Open SUNY Textbooks
Open SUNY Textbooks is run by the State University of New York libraries. This smaller repository offers downloable textbooks for adoption on a course.
You can search for open-access textbooks in the Library Search discovery layer.
Look for your topic area in the Search All box, and select the filters, 'Full Text Online'. 'Open Access' and the content type 'Book/Ebook' To browse what is available.
Selected research publications are published on open content licences, meaning that the full text is available online for free in html format.
A good collection of Humanities books, available to purchase, but also free to read online.
Palgrave Pivot is a digital-first, peer-reviewed mid-length research format, that is longer than a journal article but shorter than a monograph. They publish across the Humanities, the Social Sciences and Business, including Open Access titles
The open access eBook is freely available online. In addition to this free electronic version, a print edition is offered for those who still wish to buy a printed book.
UC Press E-Books Collection, 1982-2004, includes almost 2,000 books from academic presses on a range of topics, including art, science, history, music, religion, and fiction. Nearly 700 of the titles are available to the public; the rest are for University of California faculty, staff, and students only.