If you are reading this, you may have heard of open textbooks and be wondering what they are and why they may be of benefit to your students and your teaching practice. Here I will briefly make a few arguments which support the use of open textbooks and I hope that will encourage you to investigate further whether an open textbook would be a good fit for your courses.

The Problem

The high cost of textbooks has an impact not only on students’ wallets, but on their ability to learn. The majority of students in British Columbia are not buying at least one of their assigned textbooks due to cost.1,2 This is not surprising considering the price of College Textbooks has vastly outpaced inflation, increasing by approximately 129% from 2001 to 2016.1

VIU’s Academic Plan – Promoting and Celebrating Access to Excellence

Vancouver Island University (VIU) is a ‘special purpose, teaching university that serves a geographic area or region of the province.’3 As instructors at VIU, it is our responsibility to promote access and remove barriers to learning for our students. Therefore, we should attempt to overcome the problem of prohibitively expensive textbooks which may impose a barrier upon our students by seeking out high quality low-cost materials when possible. 

BC Open Textbook Project

Launched in 2012 by BCcampus, with support from the Ministry of Advanced Education, there are now over 300 textbooks and other resources available.4 Open textbooks are learning materials which have been created by authors and assigned an open-copyright licence, allowing their use and adaptation. The BCcampus collection has textbooks which range in subjects from business, to the sciences, social sciences, trades and beyond. The quality of these resources has been improving with review, revision, and further adaptations and there are new books being published regularly.5 These textbooks are available for free to students digitally and can be printed for the cost of materials. Instructors may also choose to edit or adapt open textbooks to better suit their course learning objectives and needs. Since 2012, it is estimated the BCcampus open textbook collection has saved BC students approximately $12.7 – 13.6 million dollars in textbook costs.4

I hope you will take the time to peruse the BCcampus open textbook collection and evaluate whether your course could use an open textbook.

Contributed by

Dr. Jessie A Key
Department of Chemistry
Vancouver Island University


1. Jhangiani, R. S., & Jhangiani, S. (2017). Investigating the perceptions, use, and impact of open textbooks: A survey of post-secondary students in British Columbia. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 18(4). doi: 10.19173/irrodl.v18i4.3012

2. Hendricks, C., Reinsberg, S., & Rieger, G. (2017). The adoption of an open textbook in a large Physics course: An analysis of cost, outcomes, use, and perceptions. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 18(4). doi: 10.19173/irrodl.v18i4.3006

3. VIU Academic Plan (2017). Promoting and Celebrating Access to Excellence. https://www.viu.ca/sites/default/files/viu-academic-plan-promoting-and-celebrating-access-to-excellence.pdf (accessed 27 September 2019).

4. BCcampus. Open Textbook Stats. https://open.bccampus.ca/advocate-for-open-education/open-textbook-stats/ (Accessed 27 September 2019). 

5. BCcampus. Find Open Textbooks. https://open.bccampus.ca/browse-our-collection/find-open-textbooks/ (Accessed 27 September 2019).