Open Access E-Textbooks

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"A great option for K–12 schools is the CK 12 Foundation. This nonprofit organization, founded in 2007, provides open-access content through FlexBooks, which are, according to founder Neeru Khosle, “the next-generation textbook.” Teachers can self-author or customize existing content into books (or chapters of books) that fit the needs of the classroom or an individual student. The site offers free text, image, and video content that has been reviewed by subject-matter experts and practitioners. Content is aligned to state and national curriculum standards. Generously funded by the Amar Foundation and private donations, CK 12 focuses on STEM courses in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math but plans to expand to other areas in the future." (

Higher Education

"For the higher-education market, open-access textbooks are offered by Connexions, Flatworld Knowledge, and Merlot.

Connexions, a nonprofit organization founded in 1999 out of Rice University, has thousands of educational modules covering an array of disciplines, from the social sciences and humanities to science and technology. Some of the most popular modules in Connexions are for music and science. Content is not limited to higher education, and many of the modules can be used in the K–12 schools. Users may create content, copy or mix existing content with their own, and save their own modules. Final products may be read online, burned to CD, or printed. A unique Connexions feature is Lenses, which is like a peer-review system or a certificate of authenticity. Individuals (such as teachers) or organizations can review a module for quality and accuracy and, if it meets their standards, add it to their lens. Students affiliated with the teacher or group then know the module they are using is of value. Connexions is funded by several foundations and private donations.

Flatworld Knowledge offers free Creative Commons textbooks covering the humanities, social sciences, math and science, professional and applied sciences, and business. Faculty can choose an existing textbook or remix the content into custom textbooks. Students read for free online and have multiple options for downloading the content at various price points. Eric Frank said during the TOC session, “When we asked students and faculty, ‘Where is the pain?’ we didn’t hear more engagement or interactivity with the textbook; we heard cost.” So Flatworld designed its service around providing free or reasonably low-cost textbooks. Another service it offers is social learning. Students can post questions about a textbook and talk with other students who are using the same text and learning the same concepts. Frank said that 55 percent of students will purchase something at an average of $35 per student, which keeps Flatworld funded.

Merlot, the Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching, was developed in 1997 out of California State University and appears to be the largest and most scholarly of the open-access digital textbook sources. The Merlot collection is much more than textbooks. It contains more than 22,000 textbooks and learning materials such as tutorials, quizzes, presentations, and case studies, as well as assignments for all disciplines. Peer review is handled by an editorial board representing 15 different disciplines. Merlot also offers 20 discipline-based communities where textbooks, instructional materials, and other resources, such as external links to organizations and conferences, are gathered. Merlot is an internationally funded source comprised of universities, nonprofit organizations, and community partners." (