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Last Updated: Mar 1, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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An Introduction to eTextbooks & Open Textbooks


Electronic textbooks (eTextbooks, eBooks) are digital versions of textbooks. The media varies widely from digital reproductions of print editions to versions that include embedded animations, video and interactive features. A good deal of interest in using e-textbooks comes from the reduced cost for students.

Most e-textbooks are currently distributed by commercial publishers and have DRM (digital rights management). They can be read via computer, some cell phones and using eReaders depending on the file format.



An open textbook is a free, openly-licensed textbook offered online by its author(s).

The most common questions in using open textbooks are:

  1. Who will write them?
  2. Who will pay for them? (if payment is made at all)
  3. How will quality standards be established and maintained?
  4. Who will host them?

For example, Flat World Knowledge has already released a dozen open textbooks that are used by more than 400 professors. Their innovative business model is to offer the open textbook free online, and then sell ancillary products that students are likely to buy if prices are reasonable - print copies, study guides, PDF download, etc. Flat World Knowledge compensates its authors with royalties on these sales.

The CCOTC (Community College Open Textbook Consortium) reviews and collects available textbooks in order to encourage adoption.


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About This Guide

Some content from this guide used by permission from Kenneth Ronkowitz.

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Kim Frakowski

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