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Zero-Cost Textbook Adoption: Setting the Stage


This guide offers information and best practices related to the adoption of zero-cost course materials. This content can be used to assist with the course redesign process.

The information is split into 7 categories:

  • Setting the Stage
  • OER Basics
  • Locating Open Resources
  • Using Non-Open Resources
  • Evaluating Resources
  • Course Redesign
  • Integration

PALSave: PALNI Affordable Learning is a project funded by the Lilly Endowment, Inc, in support of student success across the 24 institutions supported by the Private Academic Library Network of Indiana (PALNI). This program and resulting resources are the result of a collaboration with PALNI’s Instructional Technology and Scholarly Communication advisory groups. Learn more about PALNI and PALSave


Information in this guide is remixed and adapted from the following resources:

ACC Learn OER by Carrie Gits is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

The OER Starter Kit by Abbey K. Elder is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Understanding OER by SUNY OER Services, Project: OER Community Course, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

PALNI's Zero-Cost Textbook Adoption LibGuide is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. PALNI’s logos and branding template are not covered by this license, and all rights to such material are reserved.

Creative Commons License

Suggested Readings

Colvard, N., Watson, C. & Park, H. (2018). The impact of open educational resources on student success metrics. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 30(2), 262-276.


Florida Virtual Campus. (2018). 2018 student textbook and course materials survey: Executive summary


Grimaldi, P., Basu Mallick D., Waters A., Baraniuk, R. (2019, March 6). Do open educational resources improve student learning? Implications of the access hypothesis. PLOS|One.


Hilton, J. (2016) Open educational resources and college textbook choices: a review of research on efficacy and perceptions. Education Tech Research and Development, 64(4), 573 – 590.

SPARC. (2018). SPARC Open Education.

Need for Affordable Learning Materials: The Student Debt Crisis

US Debt graph by David Ernst. This work is is licensed under CC BY 4.0. Data from Federal Reserve

Student loan debt now sits at $1.5 trillion in the United States.  This chart demonstrates the rise of student debt compared with consumer revolving credit, or credit card debt, since 2006.  It has tripled in the last decade. About two-thirds of students borrow to get through school, and the average borrower graduates with about $30,000 worth of debt.  Costs for college are on the rise as well, with increases in tuition seen every year.

Need for Affordable Learning Materials: The Rise in Textbook Prices

Increase in Textbook Prices graph by David Ernst. This work is is licensed under CC BY 4.0. Data from Bureau of Labor Statistics

Textbooks are definitely not the highest education cost, but their costs are rising at an alarming rate: Over %1000 in the last 40 years.  This rate is three to four times the rate of inflation, as shown by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) line on the chart above.  This is a much faster rate than any other consumer product.

Need for Affordable Learning Materials: Supporting Student Success

Four targets showing  different impacts of textbooks costs on students. 64% Don't buy textbooks. 43% take fewer classes. 41% Don't register for a course. 23% drop a course.

"Infographic: Impact of Student Textbook Costs on Student Progress” by Florida Virtual Campus Office of Distance Learning & Student Services, 2018 is licensed under CC BY 4.0

While only a portion of the overall price for college, the cost of textbooks can have a detrimental effect on student success. Some students have to borrow more, are likely not to buy required materials at some point, and might even earn a poor grade, drop, or fail a class because of text prices.

Support Contact

In addition to local librarian(s) and/or instructional design staff, the PALSave Team is available to provide consultation and support for the adoption of zero-cost textbooks.  You can contact the whole team at  Meet the team below:

Name: Amanda Hurford

Title: Scholarly Communications Director, PALSave Chair
Institution: Private Academic Library Network of Indiana (PALNI)
Email: amanda at

Name: Erin Milanese

Title: Head of Learning Technologies, Affordable Learning Project Coordinator
Institution: Goshen College, Private Academic Library Network of Indiana (PALNI)
Email: erinm at

Name: Caitlin Balgeman

Title: Electronic Resource Management Librarian
Institution: Marian University
Email: cbalgeman at

Name: Karla Fribley

Title: Academic Technologies & Seminaries Librarian
Institution: Earlham College
Email: friblka at

Name: Heather Myers

Title: Public Services Librarian
Institution: Anderson University
Email: hnmyers at

Name: Reiley Noe

Title: Reference Librarian / Instructional Technologist
Institution: Hanover College
Email: noe at

Name: Jennifer Raye

Title: Scholarly Communication Librarian
Institution: Butler University
Email: jraye at