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Open Access: Using OA Books to Support Teaching & Learning

Discover the benefits of increasing the visibility and impact of your research outputs.

Finding & Using Open Access Books to Support Teaching & Learning

The high cost of academic books and other educational resources can be a barrier for many. Open access books and textbooks are freely accessible and can be incorporated as part of your teaching to support student learning. Many can also be reused in different ways depending on how they are licensed. Like any information resource, the quality of material can vary so it is important to evaluate the content and where it has been sourced from before you use it.

The Open Education Resource Repository (OERR) rubric was developed by the BCOEL (BC Open Education Librarians) Group to provide a process of evaluating open education resource repositories. When sourcing material, you may want to consider aspects such as:

Authority  |  Audience  |  Access & Diversity  |  User-friendliness  |  Subject Coverage  |  Search Functionality & Browsing  |  Media Type  |  Licensing & Permissions 

Open Access Books & Monographs

Open access monographs are free to access online and can also be reused in different ways depending on how they are licensed (see below for details on creative commons licensing).

Many well-known commercial publishers (e.g. Springer, Edward Elgar, De Gruyter etc.) and university presses (including OUP & CUP) now offer open access publishing options for scholarly books, and these titles are typically subject to the same quality assurance, peer-review and editorial processes as "traditional"/non-open access books and are produced to the same standards. In most cases, print copies can also be purchased.

If you are concerned about the credentials or trustworthiness of a particular publisher, consult Think Check Submit's guide to identifying reputable publishers.

Creative Commons Licences Explained

Creative Commons (CC) licences do not replace copyright. By adopting CC licences authors allow others to use their published work more flexibly. The most common CC licences are:

CC BY: This licence lets others distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licences offered. Recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials.

CC BY-SA: This license lets others remix, adapt, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. This license is often compared to “copyleft” free and open source software licenses. All new works based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also allow commercial use. 

CC BY-NC: This licence lets others remix, adapt, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.

CC BY-NC-ND: This licence is the most restrictive of the six main licenses, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.


For information on copyright for teaching, see our Library guide on copyright.

Open Textbooks

Open textbooks are freely accessible educational resources that have no, or limited, restrictions on reuse. Many open textbooks use open creative commons licences (see below for further information) that permit content to be modified, adapted or "remixed" once credit is attributed to the original creator. This allows users to rearrange, add and/or remove sections of the book, and incorporate or blend it with other content. This means you can easily update or tailor the resource to your own teaching requirements as a topic changes or evolves over time.

A small proportion of openly accessible textbooks may have a CC BY ND ("No Derivatives") licence, which does not permit modification or making derivative works, so ensure you check the type of licence that has been applied to the specific work you are using.

There are a number of useful sources for locating open textbooks:

Authoring Open Textbooks & Books