Open & Affordable Course Materials

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We provide support and solutions for UC Berkeley authors to create, publish, host, and find open or affordable course content for use in the classroom and beyond.

The high and ever-increasing cost of textbooks is a significant concern for Berkeley students. Textbook prices have risen 88% in the past decade, according to a 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics report, and many textbooks cost upwards of $200. Print course-pack costs further compound student financial burdens.

Open & affordable course materials

Campus Efforts

In 2017, the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education established a new task force to identify strategies to educate the campus about the cost of course content, and encourage practices that lower costs for students.

“While the campus has long been investigating the issue of course content affordability and has made progress, much work still needs to be done,” explains Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education Cathy Koshland. “We must further reduce course content costs and utilize accessible digital library resources to provide an equitable and engaging learning environment for our students.”

Submitting their report during Spring 2018, the task force:

  • Reviewed data related to textbook and reader usage and pricing to better understand the complex issues surrounding affordability;
  • Identified strategies to educate faculty about the cost of textbooks and readers to encourage practices that lower these costs for students;
  • Outlined how best to utilize online resources; and
  • Identified strategies to educate faculty about accessibility issues related to textbooks and digital course materials.

The Library's Office of Scholarly Communication Services participated in this campus-wide task force and report. We also simultaneously advanced similar efforts described below.


Library Pilot Programs

In cooperation with the Center for Teaching & LearningAssociated Students of the University of California, and Educational Technology Services, the Library launched a pilot for 2017-2018 to explore how we might reduce student costs for assigned course materials. The pilot tested, at limited scale, three Library-led services intended to help reduce the costs of assigned course content for Berkeley students, while also allowing the Library to gauge feasibility and efficiency were those services expanded.

  1. Course Packs: The Library enabled instructors to create free and electronic course readers in lieu of instructors requiring students to purchase print copies from third-party vendors.
  2. eBook Swaps: The Library acquired unlimited user licenses for books that the instructors would otherwise have required students to purchase in print.
  3. Open educational resources (OERs): The Library and Center for Teaching and Learning supported instructors in shifting from traditional textbooks to OERs (online and free to read and reuse).

The Library received financial support for our participation in the pilot programs from The Arcadia Fund.

Over the course of the three pilot semesters (Fall 2017, Spring 2018, and Fall 2018), the Library supported over 40 courses, representing approximately 2400 students. We have estimated potential student savings of over $200,000 for the pilot period alone! You can view our pilot fact sheet here:


Affordable Course Content Pilot Fact Sheet


Currently, the Library is working with its campus partners to evaluate ways to continue and expand the pilot services. We will update this space!


Open Education Network

The UC Berkeley Library has also strengthened its commitment to making course materials more affordable for students by joining the Open Education Network, which supports access to freely available and openly licensed textbooks and course content. The Open Education Network maintains the Open Textbook Library, a premiere resource for peer-reviewed academic textbooks. All Open Textbook Library textbooks are free and openly licensed for use, adaption or modification.

The Open Education Network also provides workshops on open textbook development and pedagogy, and a growing community of open textbook authors and instructors creating and sharing Open Educational Resources (OERs). Berkeley will continue to work with the Open Education Network to advance the use of open practices on campus by offering resources and workshops to explain and expand adoption of open textbooks. 

What's special about open textbooks?

Wondering why there's a particular emphasis on open textbooks or OERs? 

OERs include resources, tools and practices that are free of legal, financial and technical barriers and can be fully used, shared and adapted in the digital environment. This means that, not only they are free of cost to students, but also they are licensed in a way that allows instructors to continually build upon, improve, and develop outstanding educational materials.

Generally, right or permission is granted by use of an open license (for example, Creative Commons licenses) which allows anyone to Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix and Redistribute these educational materials.


Create an open book


In Spring 2018, UC Berkeley Library began piloting PressbooksEDU to offer easy-to-use digital-publishing software for anyone with an active email address via the UC Berkeley Open Book Publishing Platform. Pressbooks features professionally-designed templates, flexible and customizable licensing, and tools to maximize accessibility.

Other platforms

In addition to piloting Pressbooks, we are working to develop a platform-agnostic space to host and feature UC Berkeley-created open books made with any number of different digital publishing tools, such as GitBooks, Share LaTeX, Overleaf, and Scalar. We are committed to supporting and providing a full suite of publishing options to meet as many disciplinary and technical needs as possible.

Get a grant

We are still offering a limited number of grants to UC Berkeley instructors for the adoption, adaption, and creation of open textbooks. Contact us to discuss whether this program might be right for your project.