As any student will tell you, one of the biggest struggles of university life is in obtaining the lengthy list of "required" - and very expensive - textbooks for your course. Yet many students are unaware that, actually, you don't have to let those big price tags discourage you; not only are there many options available for you to get your hands on alternative textbooks, but they are totally free of charge, too.
Many non-profits have been created to provide students with open educational resources (known as OER); their goal is simply to expand affordable learning materials to as many people as possible throughout the world. To point you in their direction, we've compiled a list of organisations who offer good-quality higher education textbooks at no cost, saving you hundreds - or potentially even thousands - of dollars.
So, without further ado, here are five websites that offer free college textbooks...
Bookboon offers a wide selection of textbooks for college students with many different subjects for free; in particular, it is a great source for college students pursuing fields that highly incorporate mathematics, technology, science and business. What really sets this organization apart from its counterparts, though, is that it also offers a lot of textbooks relating to career development, including interview skills, internship advice, writing skills, and even how to manage stress at work. They provide resources tailored for business professionals’ success, too.
It's easy to use, as well, with users only having to fill out a short form to download any textbook. Many people over the years have turned to Bookboon for its useful textbook collection since its creation in 2005.
2. OpenStax College
If you've heard of OpenStax before, it may be because it is the platform in which Bill Gates has donated textbooks; it is also a go-to place for college students who are just starting on their educational journey through introductory courses. The organisation was founded by Rice University in 2011 and receives support through partnerships with numerous philanthropic organisations, such as the aforementioned Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, while OpenStax's textbooks are peer-reviewed by actual educators, ensuring alignment with most general course curriculums.
The textbook collection includes subjects such as physics, biology, sociology, pre-calculus, U.S. history, and several others, and are presented upon multiple formats (including PDF and EPUB).
3. College Open Textbooks
If you are, or will be attending, a community college in the future, then College Open Textbooks can be of significance to you. This website is based on a collaboration of over 20 educational non-profit and for-profit organisations, and is connected with more than 200 colleges. Their goal is to provide free textbooks to community colleges and other two-year educational institutions, a project which began in 2011. In a similar vein to OpenStax College, College Open Textbooks includes peer-reviewed selections, so you can rest assured that the material will be relevant and applicable.
The collection includes over 100 open textbooks for community college courses that are retrievable in an abundance of formats, from PDF to ZIP file. You can find textbooks for subjects as diverse as law, nursing, philosophy, engineering and art, while volunteering opportunities to help the organisation in their efforts are available by joining their community.
4. Saylor Academy
Saylor Academy has an awesome repository for free textbooks that are easy to retrieve, having officially begun their open education journey in 2008. The organisation’s mission, like many others, is simple: open education for all. They cover a large variety of subjects, so you are bound to find something to assist you in your studies, while there are also additional categories available, such as college success, online marketing, financial accounting, general chemistry, social psychology, public speaking, and more.
All of the textbooks can be accessed in at least one of three formats: HTML, PDF, and DOCx, meaning that you can open textbooks in new browser tabs, download them to your computer or open them as Microsoft Word documents. Saylor Academy encourages users to pay it forward, too, and share their collection of textbooks with others. All their material is under one of several open licenses (in connection with Creative Commons), while if you want to give feedback on their textbooks, you can take a short survey and offer your suggestions.
Not to be confused with the doomed 'IniTech' corporation of Office Space fame, InTech is actually one of the world’s largest publishers of free textbooks, and has been operating since 2004. It covers multiple disciplines, with particular emphasis on STEM fields, such as science, technology, and medicine; as the name suggests, there are a wealth of textbook options and journals for computer science, robotics, neuroscience, pharmacology, economics, and more. They have teamed up with thousands of authors and boast a collection of over 2,000 published textbooks, and even have an assortment of peer-reviewed journals to choose from.
You can read each textbook from the website, or you can download them in PDF format for later use; also, they show you how to properly reference their material and share it on websites or blogs. According to the site itself, InTech has had more than 61 million of their textbook chapters and journal articles downloaded by people from across the globe, proving that they are one of the most credible and well-used providers on the market.
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That's not all, either; you can find other similar websites and providers simply by performing Google searches for "free textbooks". Give it a try, and you will be surprised by what you can come across. In an era where students have to monitor their budgets carefully, programmes such as these can make a real and viable difference, as well as providing wider general access to educational materials.
What free college textbook providers would you recommend? Let us know in the comments below!