March 2, 2020

The Benefits of Open Source Textbooks for Instructors

Last time, we looked at the benefits of open source textbooks (OSTs) for students. Today we'll examine the benefits for instructors.

Practical Benefits

An obvious practical benefit for instructors is that, since an OST is free and freely available, there is no need to deal with bookstore textbook requisitions or wait for books to come in at the beginning of the semester. Students have access to their books on Day 1, and an instructor can plan accordingly. Moreover, as was the case with students, the flexibility of many OSTs allows instructors to interact with the book in whatever format (e.g., hard copy, HTML, PDF, EPUB) is most convenient.


One of the oft-cited benefits of using open source software (OSS) is the community that tends to spring up around the various applications under development. This community consists both of users and contributors.

When an instructor adopts an OST, they join the community of users for that book. They are invested in its continued existence, development, and success. In many ways, it depends on them, as the author has eschewed traditional publishers to make the book free and open. The instructor thus feels a certain level of satisfaction in their intentional choice of a textbook and the promotion of open resources.

This level of investment can lead to the user becoming a contributor, either by identifying typos or other mistakes, or even writing additional material for the text. Such involvement can lead even to co-authorship. But even if the instructor does not become a contributor, merely making themselves known as a user helps encourage the author that the investment of time and energy into continued development is a worthwhile endeavor.

Next time, we'll conclude our series with a look at the benefits of OSTs for authors.