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Open Educational Resources (OER) & Textbook Equity

I can't access/afford my textbooks. What should I do?

  • Search OneSearch, the main search box on the library's webpage. While Rod Library generally doesn't have textbooks, any we happen to have (print and/or ebook) will be shown. FAQ
  • Search Google Books. Note not all books have previews and not all pages are shown.
  • Search Project Gutenberg. This site focuses on older texts, particularly those with expired copyright.
  • Try swap/sell groups such as UNI Books Exchange or UNI & Hawkeye Used Textbooks For Sale/Trade.
  • Charge your U-bill at UNI Bookstore. Go early to get used copies.
  • Save all receipts so you can take advantage of up to $2500 in tax credits.
  • Contact your instructor to let them know about your challenges. You aren't alone (see UNI stats).
    • Instructors are encouraged to place materials on course reserve for free access for all students and, better yet, to select free/affordable materials (we can help them identify materials).
    • Instructors are encouraged to search OneSearch to see if an ebook option may already be available. Ebook FAQ:
    • Ask instructors if older editions are acceptable--they are often much cheaper.
  • Interlibrary loan, borrowing books from other libraries through UNI, is an option but there are some limits, such as borrowing time (usually around 3-4 weeks).
  • Contact Rod Library staff for assistance finding alternative copies of course materials.
  • Make an appointment with a UNI Financial Aid officer to see if your financial aid package could be adjusted to better allow you to afford textbooks. Choose in-person or virtual options then "General Financial Aid Questions".

Why does textbook equity matter?

UNI students know that textbooks are expensive. They are an inclusion concern and we need to level the playing field by ensuring equal access to course materials. One solution: Open Educational Resources (OER), which are FREE, ONLINE (and usually printable), and licensed for REUSE. OER can be created in more culturally responsive and less biased ways than traditional textbooks. They allow for instructors and students alike to modify them to meet user needs, local preferences, and include more inclusive topics/images.

Find Free, Open Textbooks

Looking for a free, online textbook? You've come to the right place! Use the Open Textbooks tab on the left for links to searchable collections of open textbooks. Or use the Resources by Discipline tab to see lists by subject.

You Can Advocate for Free Course Materials

Tell your story. Tell instructors how much textbooks cost and what challenges you face in affording them.

Talk with a member of the Textbook Equity Student Advisory Board. This group began in 2022-23 and consists of a team of students with NISG representation; the goal is to share student experiences and elevate student voices/advocacy.

NISG could sign a statement in support of open textbooks and pass a resolution encouraging faculty to adopt open textbooks. Textbook Equity Librarian Anne Marie Gruber can assist (

Talk with your librarian or the Textbook Equity Librarian. They are very interested in advocating for open textbooks. In fact, it's part of their job!

Join the #FreeTheTextbook movement.

Spread the word on social media using #TextbookBroke #FreeTheTextbook #TextbookEquity

My course textbook is an ebook. Can I get a print copy?

Ebooks are generally designed for reading on the screen. But you might prefer a print copy.

IF your textbook is an open textbook, then YES, you can print it. Openly-licensed textbooks have no printing restrictions. However, note that UNI IT does have print limit policies regardless of the licensing on the document (no more than 1 copy per document and no more than 40 pages).

IF it's an ebook from a library database, a digital commercial textbook, "inclusive access" (automatically-billed digital textbook), or other paid service, then you MAY be able to print, but usually with page limits set by the publisher. This is separate from UNI IT print limits.

The fine print: licensing may differ among books & publishers. Check with your librarian or Ask Us if you aren't sure.

Do not attempt to print an entire ebook on a campus printer. UNI IT sets printing limits by page count (max 40 pages).

Find a low-cost copy (openly-licensed ebooks): Check on the ebook's website to see if print options are available. Example: OpenStax books are available for purchase in print.

Print a low-cost copy yourself: Use Copyworks, Staples, or other off-campus vendors that offer printing services. You will need to pay for the paper & printing/binding but NOT for copyright permissions. Staff may ask about copyright and you can show them the Creative Commons (CC) license on the file, which will indicate permissions. You could also print on a home printer. All CC licenses allow printing.

If you need assistance, contact your librarian or the Textbook Equity Librarian

You can also ask your professor if they are able to provide a print copy to Rod Library for course reserves (in-library use for up to 3 hours at a time; usually 1 copy for all students in the course) and/or electronic course reserves (up to 10% of a book for a single semester for all students in a course).

Print 2-sided. Minimize margins and remove blank pages. Adjust spacing to 1.5 or single-spacing. Use 10- or 11-point font if possible.

Textbook Equity Student Advisory Board

The Textbook Equity Student Advisory Board serves to advise campus textbook equity advocates, sharing student experiences and brainstorming ways to engage students in advocacy related to textbook access. The Advisory Board is facilitated by Textbook Equity Librarian, Anne Marie Gruber.

2023-24 Textbook Equity Student Advisory Board members:

  • Christian Johnson (NISG Director of Diversity)
  • Geneva Bell (NISG Director of Administration & Finance)
  • Nkasa Bolumbu
  • Lexi Gause
  • Kylie Rink
  • Anna Singelstad
  • Jerrell Bates