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Open Educational Resources

This guide provides information about open educational resources and offers assistance with finding, adopting, and creating them. © 2016-2024 University of Kentucky Libraries. Licensed with CC BY-NC 4.0.

Textbook costs

Rising textbook costs have far outpaced the rate of inflation for decades, increasing more quickly than anything except some healthcare services and overall college tuition.

A graph titled "Price Changes: January 2000 to December 2020, Selected US Consumer Goods and Services, Wages." The graph shows that TVs, toys, computer software, cellphone services, clothing, household earnings, and new cars have decreased in cost. Food and beverages, housing, average hourly wages, childcare and nursery school, medical care services, college textbooks, college tuition and fees, and hospital services have increased.


These increases have had a significant impact on students, many of whom struggle to afford their assigned textbooks. The short video below interviews students on how textbook costs affect their lives.

The ten-minute video below interviews students and faculty on their experiences with textbook costs and how open textbooks make a difference.

Multiple large surveys have shown that students take fewer courses, avoid specific courses they would otherwise have taken, drop or withdraw, do worse academically, and simply do without materials due to textbook costs.

A bar graph titled "In your academic career, has the cost of required course materials caused you to:" Each item has a bar for the Virginia 2021 survey and for the Florida 2018 survey. For "Take fewer courses," Virginia is 38% and Florida is 43%. For "Not register for a specific course," Virginia is 40% and Florida is 41%. For "Drop a course," Virginia is 25% and Florida is 23%. For "Withdraw from a course," Virginia is 19% and Florida is 18%. For "Earn a poor grade," Virginia is 34% and Florida is 36%. For "Fail a course," Virginia is 16% and Florida is 17%. For "Not purchase the required textbook," Virginia is 66% and Florida is 64%.

Source: Virginia Course Materials Survey Results and Findings (, p. 17.

Textbook costs have a disparate impact on students who are already marginalized, with research showing that those with multiple areas of marginalization face increased stresses in affording course materials.

A bar graph titled "Percentages of students 'extremely worried' about meeting course material costs by area of concern." Overall is 16%. Pell Grant Program is 23%. Education loans is 20%. Full-time job(s) is 21%. Non White-Only is 19%. First Generation is 24%. Caring for Family is 25%. Disabled is 26%.

Source: Virginia Course Materials Survey Results and Findings (, p. 31.

A bar graph titled "Percentages of students 'extremely worried' about meeting course material costs by number of areas of concern." Overall is 16%. Social/Financial Areas of Concern = 0 is 7%. Social/Financial Areas of Concern = 3 is 23%. Social/Financial Areas of Concern = 4 is 29%. Social/Financial Areas of Concern = 5 is 37%.

Source: Virginia Course Materials Survey Results and Findings (, p. 32.

Social justice

Increasingly, OER provide opportunities to improve equity, diversity, and inclusion in course materials. The one-hour presentation below addresses the intersection of open education and social justice.

The webinar below covers practical guidance for using OER to build more inclusive materials.

Pros, cons, and alternatives

The webinar below addresses common arguments for and against using open textbooks and discusses ways to overcome the objections in the higher education landscape.

The short video below covers how to use library resources as an alternative way to reduce textbook costs for students.

Affordable Course Content Librarian