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:
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 Lulu.com 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.
Aesoph, L.M. (2018). Self-publishing guide: Citation vs. attribution.
Brennan, M. & Boland, M. (2018). How to use the OER Commons LTI tool.
Elder, A. (2017).
SPARC (2017). OER mythbusting.
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:
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 Amazon.com.
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 openstax.org 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.
OpenStax Course Shells screenshot by Rice University.