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Zero-Cost Textbook Adoption: Resource Integration

This guide offers information and best practices related to the adoption of zero-cost course materials.


Now that you've found and evaluated zero cost materials appropriate to your learning objectives, it's time to integrate the text into your redesigned course. 

image of a tablet taking a picture of a shelf of books

Obtaining Print Versions

Low-cost printing is an option for open textbooks. Physical copies of course materials are sometimes preferred by both students and instructors.  There are many reasons why your students might want to access an OER in print, even at a price. A few of these are listed below:

  • Students who do not own a laptop might want to have a print copy of their text for use in the classroom.
  • Some students have issues with eye strain when reading on computer screens.
  • Some students find it easier to retain information from print texts.
  • Some students (and instructors!) prefer having physical manuals for use in labs.

Although not all students will want to purchase your materials in print, having the option available might be a worthwhile endeavor for your course.

Options for obtaining print versions:

One option for accessing OER in print is to purchase publisher-produced copies. For example, OpenStax provides bulk printing through textbook providers that contract with university bookstores. Campus bookstores can order copies of OpenStax textbooks and other OER which have print copies available for sale.

Even if the publisher of your chosen OER does not sell physical copies of their resource, you can commission copies through third-party platforms such as or Amazon.

If the OER you want isn’t available to purchase in print and you don’t want to commission print copies on a third-party platform, you can also consider printing copies on campus.  If your institution has a printing services center, you could work with them and your bookstore to identify a usable and cost-effective print option.  Students can also print portions of the book on campus or print the full text if they choose, at a store like Staples.

Suggested Readings


Consider whether approval from others at your college for instructional material choices such as the department chair, curriculum committee, accessibility services office, etc is required. Any institutional policies that are specific to your campus or department regarding course materials should be considered well in advance so you can make a smooth transition to a zero-cost textbook. Note that your institution may have a policy requiring faculty to notify the bookstore of any textbooks required for courses they are teaching by a certain date.  


There are several stakeholders on campus involved in delivering instructional materials to students, including the bookstore, library, instructional technologists, and possibly on-site print services. It is important to engage stakeholders in your move to zero-cost as they can all assist in the smooth delivery of materials to students.
Does your campus have a textbook affordability initiative? Leaders of this initiative and other faculty champions may be able to assist you with a transition to zero-cost and help you spread the word to other faculty members. These sorts of initiatives can motivate other faculty and staff to get involved in textbook affordability as they highlight the potential benefits to the college and students.
Finally, don't forget to communicate with the PALSave Team!  We want to know how it is going once you've integrated a zero-cost textbook into your course.

Citation and Attribution

If providing a citation (listing a book's vital information, bibliography style), you would cite an open and commercial books similarly. For example, here is an APA electronic book citation for the textbook pictured below:

Watt, A. (2014). Project management (2nd ed.). Retrieved from:

Cover image for Project Management

If attributing an OER (giving credit to the creator as specified in the BY part of the open license) you used in presentation slides, handouts, etc., follow these attribution guidelines from Creative Commons.  You can also use a tool like the Open Attribution Builder.

  • Title + link to source 

  • Author (+ link if applicable) 

  • License + link to the deed on the Creative Commons website

For example, here is an attribution for that same book:



Let students know that the course uses an open or other zero-cost textbook.  Most importantly, be sure to let them know how to access the book.  Provide a direct link to the online version, and if possible, also provide a link for students to download it.  If you have chosen an open textbook, consider including a blurb about what an open textbook is.  

For example, here is some sample syllabus text provided by OpenStax for its US History Text:

Good news: your textbook for this class is available for free online! If you prefer, you can also get a print version at a very low cost.

Your book is available in web view and PDF for free. You can also choose to purchase on iBooks or get a print version via the campus bookstore or from OpenStax on

You can use whichever formats you want. Web view is recommended -- the responsive design works seamlessly on any device. If you buy on Amazon, make sure you use the link on your book page on so you get the official OpenStax print version. (Simple printouts sold by third parties on Amazon are not verifiable and not as high-quality.)

U.S. History from OpenStax, Print ISBN 1938168364, Digital ISBN 1947172085,

Downloadable formats, such as PDF ePub, mobi, or DAISY might be preferable for students with visual impairments. Students without consistent Internet access may also be able to save to their personal devices and access the text offline and potentially have perpetual access to the material, even after they graduate.

Another way to deliver zero-costs texts to students is to integrate them into your campus Learning Management System (LMS).  Check if your LMS has an option to directly import your learning materials into the course. 

For example, Canvas LMS course cartridges for several OpenStax books are available from the site's Instructor Resources.

screenshot from OpenStax explaining that books are avialable as course shells.  The cartridges integrate book content and ancillaries in the Cavas LMS.

OpenStax Course Shells screenshot by Rice University.