OpenStax textbooks now available through bookstore digital access programs


David Ruth

OpenStax textbooks now available through bookstore digital access programs
VitalSource, RedShelf, Follett and Barnes & Noble Education make OpenStax free textbooks more accessible

HOUSTON — (Nov. 10, 2017) — Rice University-based publisher OpenStax announced today that its textbooks are now available through VitalSource and RedShelf, the digital textbook providers for the majority of campus bookstores in the U.S. Colleges and universities participating in inclusive access programs — programs where students are billed for all their digital textbooks and resources at registration — will include OpenStax content for free or for no additional cost beyond a marginal platform fee.

“OpenStax is committed to providing our free textbooks to all students,” said Richard Baraniuk, founder and director of OpenStax and Rice’s Victor E. Cameron Professor of Engineering. “We have partnered with RedShelf and VitalSource for the same reason that we partnered with companies like WebAssign and McGraw-Hill, and for the same reason we provide print versions of our books: We strive to meet faculty and students where they are by providing our content in the delivery methods that work for them and alongside the value-added services they prefer.”

Many colleges and universities in the U.S. have opted for a new method of digital distribution that publishers and retailers refer to by such descriptions as “inclusive access,” “all students acquire,” “day-one access,” “includED,” “digital discount,” “digital direct access,” “enterprise solutions” and “First Day.” In this model, students do not shop for their own textbooks but instead at the beginning of the semester are charged for their course materials, which include their digital textbook and additional resources, like online homework. Provided that students do not opt out of the program during the registration process, they will have access to their digital resources before the course begins. RedShelf and VitalSource distribute digital resources to the majority of campus bookstores in the U.S., including independent stores and stores operated by Barnes & Noble Education and Follett.

Jennifer Kneafsey, a biology instructor at Tulsa Community College, is hopeful that these partnerships will bring the open textbook model to more students. “In a way, OpenStax is the original ‘inclusive access’ — their books have always been available on day one because they are freely available online. I’m glad that OpenStax is making sure that free, peer-reviewed, openly licensed options are still available to students in this new model.”

VitalSource and RedShelf are looking forward to being able to deliver free materials.

“Helping to create and deliver affordable, high-quality course materials is central to our mission at VitalSource,” said Mike Hale, VitalSource’s vice president of education for North America. “Professors and instructors invest tremendous energy and time into creating these resources for their students. Our collaboration with OpenStax on this initiative allows OER (open educational resources) to be as discoverable and easy to use as publisher content on our platform.”

Greg Fenton, co-founder and CEO at RedShelf, believes the partnership will significantly benefit RedShelf’s independent bookstore partners. “The inclusion of free OpenStax resources in our extensive catalog cements our bookstores as the central hub for course materials on campus and enables them to equip faculty with the highest-quality, most-affordable digital resources for their students,” he said.

“Our partnership with OpenStax allows us to leverage our large Barnes & Noble College and MBS footprint to bring more affordable, accessible content to a wider audience — a longstanding mission of both of our companies,” said Kanuj Malhotra, chief operating officer, Barnes & Noble Education, Digital Education. “OpenStax’s learning resources, offered as stand-alone materials through our campus bookstores and through BNED Courseware, allow us to drive greater savings for our students and offer a wider array of digital textbook options for our faculty. We are pleased to partner with OpenStax in driving success on campuses nationwide.”

Clay Wahl, president of Follett Higher Education, said, “We’re pleased to offer OpenStax content through Follett’s includEd platform, which expands the cost-saving and OER options we currently offer at more than 2,800 physical and virtual campus store locations.” According to Wahl, the partnership aligns with Follett’s includEd core mission of making course materials from all sources more accessible and affordable.

OpenStax is a nonprofit initiative of Rice University and is made possible by the generous support of philanthropic partners, including Laura and John Arnold Foundation, Arthur and Carlyse Ciocca Charitable Foundation, Ann and John Doerr, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Google Inc., the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Calvin K. Kazanjian Economics Foundation, Charles Koch Foundation, Leon Lowenstein Foundation Inc., the Maxfield Foundation, Michelson 20MM Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, Jumee Yhu and David E. Park III, Brian D. Patterson USA-International Foundation, and the Bill and Stephanie Sick Fund. For more information, visit


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About David Ruth

David Ruth is director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.