Largest Free and Low-Cost Textbook Showcase Launches at 13 CSU Libraries

Feb 15, 2015

Thirteen California State University libraries announced today the nation’s largest coordinated library showcase to increase awareness of open educational resources (OER) textbooks—high-quality, free and low cost digital and print textbook options.

The library initiative will display Rice University-based OpenStax College textbooks for the Spring 2015 term, and is funded by the Gary Michelson Twenty Million Minds Foundation (20MM), which seeds technologies to lower the cost of education. The combined participating CSU campus libraries represent more than 285,000 students and more than 60 percent of CSU enrollment. With professor implementation, combined savings for students could reach into the millions of dollars.

“The tremendous value of open textbooks provides faculty the ability to customize high-quality content that reaches all students, not just students that can afford the textbook,” said Cyril Oberlander, University Library Dean at Humboldt State University who is managing the program implementation. “Research has proven open textbooks to be of equal or better learning value than an expensive textbook that can cost as much as $300. We aim to empower faculty and students with more options.”

Over the last decade, textbook prices have increased dramatically across the nation. Print materials can cost several hundred dollars per book, and as a result, some students are not purchasing their textbooks or they are taking fewer courses.

OpenStax College textbooks, which are free online and low-cost in print, have already saved students more than $30 million. Instructors have adopted OpenStax College textbooks for use in more than 1,100 courses worldwide over the past two years.

The campus libraries are highlighting the exploration of OpenStax College textbooks and encouraging faculty to review and evaluate these crucial resources. The collection of print textbooks is free to participating libraries, and is an innovative program to promote awareness and encourage adoption of affordable resources for higher education. For the CSU library initiative, 20MM funded and collaborated with OpenStax College to provide rotating displays, copies of the published books, and literature with information on digital offerings and supplemental materials.

Various libraries throughout the U.S. are leading curation efforts to discover OER. The books are openly licensed educational materials that can be shared, revised and reused. They’re also professionally produced, peer-reviewed, and carefully developed to meet the scope and sequence requirements of introductory college courses. Instructional resources are also available, such as practice questions for students, PowerPoint slides, and test banks for faculty.

“It is clear that we must take every effort to lower the cost of education for students. One area that is often overlooked is the skyrocketing cost of textbooks, which are an underreported financial burden on students,” said Dr. Gary Michelson, California philanthropist and founder of 20MM. Through 20MM, Michelson has contributed more than $1.3 million in grant funding to OpenStax College for this initiative and other projects.

This program will help grow awareness of open textbooks and more affordable educational options across a wide swath of the CSU system. We hope to fund greater implementation efforts in the future,” said Michelson.

Participating CSU Libraries include Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, CSU Bakersfield, CSU Chico, CSU East Bay, CSU Fresno, CSU Fullerton, CSU Northridge, CSU San Bernardino, Sacramento State, Humboldt State, San Diego State, San Francisco State, and Sonoma State. Library stacks pilot programs successfully ran this fall at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Ohio State University, Auburn University, Virginia Tech, and the University of Oklahoma.

“Throughout the country, libraries are an important partner in bringing OER resources to each campus,” said David Harris, Editor-in-Chief for OpenStax College. “The CSU libraries serve hundreds of thousands of students, so the potential impact of this program is significant. As a parent of a college student in California, I am thrilled by this CSU initiative.”

About The Gary Michelson Twenty Million Minds Foundation
The Gary Michelson Twenty Million Minds Foundation (20MM) is a private foundation that advances the use of innovative technologies to create more affordable, accessible, and effective opportunities for all learners in higher education. 20MM and its initiatives are made possible by the generous support of Dr. Gary Michelson and his wife, Alya. To read more about Dr. Gary Michelson, visit

About OpenStax College
OpenStax College is committed to improving student access to quality learning materials. An initiative of Rice University and supported by philanthropic foundations, OpenStax College provides entirely free textbooks, developed, and peer-reviewed by educators to ensure they are readable, accurate and meet the scope and sequence requirements of the most prevalent introductory college courses. For information, please visit