Open books on a wooden desk. Book shelves in the background.

UAS joins Open Textbook Network to reduce student expenses, increase access to education

The University of Alaska Southeast has teamed with a group that has already saved students $8.5 million in textbook costs.

As a member of the Open Textbook Network, UAS faculty and students now have access to free, openly-licensed textbooks. The idea is that when faculty use these resources in their classrooms, students won’t have to pay out of their noses for textbooks. 

“Students simply can’t learn from course materials they can’t afford. The work underway at UAS to increase faculty awareness and use of Open Educational Resources (OER) is complementary to the guiding values of excellence and access at the heart of the UAS Strategic Plan and mission,” said Juneau Campus Librarian Jonas Lamb. 

OTN’s textbooks have been funded, published, and licensed to be freely used, adapted, and distributed, according to its website. Faculty from various colleges and universities review each book for quality control, and the books can be downloaded at no cost or printed at low cost from the Open Textbook Library. All 625 textbooks in the OTN collection are either used by multiple higher-ed institutions, or affiliated with an institution, scholarly society, or professional organization, according to the OTN website. 

This service also allows faculty to choose appropriate course materials for their students, and faculty feedback shapes the OTN selection. The service results in significant savings for students by decreasing the need to purchase books and other materials. 

The price of textbooks has risen 87.5 percent between 2006 and 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Egan Library began promoting OER use in 2016 through faculty workshops and student awareness events. Since that time, it has saved 1,000 UAS students more than $90,000 on required textbooks through the use of OER and library materials.

“Free and low-cost textbook alternatives are an effective student success strategy supported by research indicating a strong correlation between cost of attendance and student retention,” said UAS Library Dean Elise Tomlinson.

UAS’ OTN membership will allow Sitka Campus to host an open text workshop for faculty. It is tentatively scheduled for Spring 2020. According to the OTN website, 45 percent of faculty who attend an OTN workshop adopt an open textbook.

The Open Textbook Library is supported by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Open Education and OTN.  There are more than 600 campuses represented in the network, which is committed to improving access, affordability, and academic success through the use of open textbooks. UAS’ membership was provided by the Sitka Campus’ Complete to Compete grant.

For more information, email David Felts at