OpenStax College saves students an estimated $3.7 million this year

Rice-based publisher’s free books adopted by almost 300 educational institutions

Free textbook publisher OpenStax College today announced that nearly 300 educational institutions on four continents will use OpenStax textbooks for the coming school year.

“Our adoptions have almost doubled in the past four months, and we estimate we’ll save about 40,000 students more than $3.7 million in the coming school year,” said Richard Baraniuk, founding director of the Rice University-based publisher.

OpenStax College provides free, peer-reviewed textbooks. Its growing catalog includes titles for five of the most-attended introductory college courses — physics, sociology, anatomy and both majors and nonmajors biology. OpenStax Colleges’ free books have been accessed online by more than 1.7 million people and downloaded more than 170,000 times since June 2012.

“Word-of-mouth endorsements are really spurring adoptions,” said David Harris, editor-in-chief of OpenStax College. “That’s great news for students by helping reduce their college costs while giving them access to high quality, peer-reviewed textbooks.”

OpenStax College exceeded its first-year targets for both usage and market share.

“One of the biggest lessons for us during this first year has been the extraordinary level of interest from faculty,” said Baraniuk, Rice’s Victor E. Cameron Professor of Engineering. “We knew students wanted these books, but we also found that many faculty want high-quality, affordable alternatives. That’s a significant driver for us.”

OpenStax College’s sixth title, Introductory Statistics, will debut in October, and introductory texts in five more subjects — precalculus, chemistry, economics, U.S. history and psychology — will be added by 2015.

OpenStax College founder Rich Baraniuk displays the nonprofit publisher's first five free textbooks. Its sixth title, Introductory Statistics, will debut in October.

OpenStax College has also added a second title, Introduction to Sociology, to its Apple iBooks catalog. Its first iBook, College Physics, debuted in November. IBooks versions of OpenStax titles have a nominal cost of $4.99 and include interactive graphics, videos, quizzes, demos and other immersive features that are not included in the free PDF version of the book.

“While many people want and need the free versions of our books, others want something more,” Harris said. “We’re committed to providing our books in as many formats as possible in order to pass on more savings and educational opportunities to students.”

Harris said OpenStax College plans to make iBooks versions of all its titles. Low-cost print versions are also available for faculty and students who prefer a printed book. Harris said about 4,000 printed books were sold last year.

OpenStax College launched in February 2012 with a venture philanthropic model to offer free, high-quality, peer-reviewed, full-color textbooks for the 25 most heavily attended college courses in the nation. Its books are free online for everyone. OpenStax College is a nonprofit initiative of Rice University and is made possible by the generous support of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the 20 Million Minds Foundation, the Maxfield Foundation, the Calvin K. Kazanjian Foundation and the Leon Lowenstein Foundation. For more information, visit


About Jade Boyd

Jade Boyd is science editor and associate director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.