Free Online Textbooks

posted Feb 26, 2016, 9:33 AM by Jason Baxter

CK-12 is an awesome resource. Teachers can cut, combine, edit to create their own textbook and distribute to students. Most of these textbooks include youtube videos, worksheets, and quizzes. The state of Utah has already created several textbooks for their schools using CK-12 which are listed below under the Open Education Group and free to use as well.

CK-12 Foundation
This pioneer in the field of OER has a simple student interface. Go to the home page, pick a topic, and choose a "FlexBook" from what's listed. English has three offerings (one a teacher's edition), history has two, math has five (all for middle school), and earth science has five. This is one of the few resources that actually allows reviewing. For example, CK-12 Earth Science Concepts for High School gets 11 thumbs up, no thumbs down, and two reviews, both positive. FlexBooks can be downloaded in three forms: PDF (for most computing devices), mobi (for Kindle), and ePub (for iPad and Android devices).

Users have to sign in for access to the textbooks but you can use your Google, Facebook, or Twitter account for that. Once you've provided that, you'll receive a confirmation email that will guide you back to the site for your downloads. The earth sciences textbook referenced above, for example, written by science writer Dana Desonie, runs 1,208 pages in PDF format.

California Learning Resource Network (CLRN)
The current compilation of open educational resources (OERs) on CLRN stands at 6,063. If you're teaching high school-level math, science, history or social science, what you want to pay attention to is the free textbooks link, of which there are 30. The site counts up standards met for many of the textbooks; but since they're being compared to California education standards, that metric may or may not be of use to you, depending on what state you're teaching in.

As an example, Light and Matter is an introductory 1,016-page textbook on physics published by Benjamin Crowell, a faculty member at Fullerton College in Southern California. The PDF is a whopping 80Mb, full of graphics and color images. He makes an instructor's guide available for the text on his Web site.

The site also includes an ample number of non-textbook OER resources for grades K-12 that meet Common Core standards. You can filter results by subject, grade level, and type of resource.

Open Education Group
This research group at Brigham Young University has compiled six freely downloadable science texts for grades 7 through 12, all available as PDF files:

Compared to the competition, these textbooks are modestly sized; Biology runs 142 pages and 27Mb currently. Because they were initially developed as part of a larger research project on the use of OER, there's been academic scrutiny of the Utah classes where they've been used. Results — once they're made public — could be impressive. As the researchers state, "We're still analyzing last year's outcomes data, but here's a preview: students using open textbooks outperformed their peers using traditional textbook on state standardized tests."

Project Gutenberg

If you're a teacher in the humanities, you might notice a dearth of offerings in that category from the resources already listed. Not to worry. This "first producer of free e-books" probably offers any classic you might need for your students. They come in multiple versions — ePub with or without images, HTML, Kindle, plain text, and some we've never heard of.

Plus, don't miss out on the "Similar Books" feature at the bottom of the "Bibrec" view, which provides links to files that readers of your title also downloaded — just like Amazon. Downloading William Strunk's The Elements of Style will lead you right to Joseph Devlin's How to Speak and Write Correctly, which will take you to The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and onto Pride and Prejudice and — well, you get the idea.