More than 1.5 million students have used OpenStax’s free textbooks

David Ruth

Jade Boyd

More than 1.5 million students have used OpenStax’s free textbooks

Rice-based publisher expects to save students $70 million this academic year

HOUSTON — (Sept. 27, 2016) — More than 1.5 million college students have used a free textbook from OpenStax, the Rice University-based publisher announced today. The number of students using OpenStax textbooks has more than doubled since January, and OpenStax estimates it will save students $70 million in the 2016-17 academic year.

Richard Baraniuk

Richard Baraniuk

“More than 811,000 students are using our books this fall, which is a 106 percent increase over spring 2016, and the books are being used in over 4,500 courses at 2,688 universities, colleges and high schools,” said Richard Baraniuk, founder and director of OpenStax and Rice’s Victor E. Cameron Professor of Engineering. “Our books are making it possible for more students to afford college at a time when a college education has never been more important.”

OpenStax’s 25 textbooks offer the best of both worlds for students: They feature full-color, peer-reviewed, high-quality content like expensive textbooks, but they are free online and low-cost in print like traditionally produced open educational resources (OER).

September 2016 Infographic about OpenStax“We specifically design our books to be easily adopted into almost any introductory college course,” Baraniuk said. “That strategy, coupled with the demand among both instructors and students for low-cost, high-quality alternatives to traditional textbooks and traditional OER are what’s helping us get ever nearer to our goal of saving students $500 million by 2020.”

Based on the number of instructors who have notified OpenStax that they are adopting the books in their courses, OpenStax knows that 1.5 million students have used its books since 2012. Based on the date of adoptions, the one millionth student is among the students in instructor Shawna Brandle’s American Government course this fall at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, N.Y.

“I’m so happy to be using the OpenStax American Government textbook,” said Brandle, an assistant professor of political science at Kingsborough. “I taught for years using expensive textbooks I didn’t like before trying a different free digital book that wasn’t great. I even tried making my own book, but nothing at any price is as good as the OpenStax book. I’m doubly happy knowing that my students are not paying for a book and are still getting the best resource available, regardless of price.”

OpenStax launched in 2012 with two titles and a unique OER business model: Use philanthropic grants to produce high-quality, peer-reviewed textbooks that are free online and low-cost in print.

Current titles include College Physics; Biology; Concepts of Biology; Anatomy and Physiology; Chemistry; University Physics, volume 1; Microbiology; Sociology 2e; Principles of Economics; Principles of Macroeconomics; Principles of Microeconomics; Psychology; American Government; U.S. History; Introductory Statistics; Precalculus; Calculus, volumes 1-3; Algebra and Trigonometry; College Algebra; and Prealgebra.

OpenStax plans to publish Astronomy and University Physics, volumes 2 and 3, in time for spring 2017 adoptions.

OpenStax is made possible by the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, the 20 Million Minds Foundation, the Maxfield Foundation, the Calvin K. Kanzanjian Foundation, the Bill and Stephanie Sick Fund and the Leon Lowenstein Foundation.


A high-resolution IMAGE and INFOGRAPHICS are available for download at:
(Courtesy of OpenStax/Rice University)
(Courtesy of OpenStax/Rice University)
(Courtesy of OpenStax/Rice University)
(Courtesy of OpenStax/Rice University)
(Courtesy of OpenStax/Rice University)
CAPTION: Richard Baraniuk (Photo by Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

More information is available at

Related OpenStax news from Rice:

Top 10: Which colleges save the most with free textbooks? — Aug. 1, 2016

Eleven schools selected for national OpenStax partnership program — July 6, 2016

OpenStax, NACSCORP to offer low-cost textbook customization — March 3, 2016

OpenStax already saved students $39 million this academic year — Jan. 20, 2016

This release can be found online at

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About Jade Boyd

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