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Open-Source Textbooks: An Economic Consideration

doi: 10.1097/NNE.0b013e3182461c6b
Departments: News, Notes and Tips

Nursing faculty are well aware of the high cost of the textbooks that our students purchase. A report by the American Academy of Sciences notes that the price of textbooks is rising at 4 times the rate of inflation. Recently, the president of the University of California asked faculty to examine and use open-source materials for courses. The availability of these materials is limited, but nursing faculty should at least be aware of the trend to open-source materials as a cost-saving measure.

Course Smart, Nature Education, and Flat World Knowledge are examples of open-source companies. The founder and chief executive officer of Flat World Knowledge, Jeff Shelstad, reports that goals of the company include making access to textbooks easy and affordable for students, to give faculty greater control over course content, and to work with authors to increase their market impact. The company licenses the work of authors via a Creative Commons open license. Anyone with an Internet connection can access the texts. The company earns revenue by selling both print and digital versions of the textbooks, along with study aids. Authors are most often authorities in their fields and can edit texts with ease online at any time.

A quick search of Google using nursing + open source textbooks led to a few resources for nursing. The Orange Grove ( provides access to several Merck Manuals and statistics textbooks. OER Commons ( provides more resources specific to nursing, including “Professional Issues in Nursing,” “Community Health Nursing,” and “ Utilization of Nursing Research in Advanced Practice, Summer 2008.” Resources related to topics relevant to nursing such as statistics anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology are more readily available.

The trend toward open-source textbooks in other discipline bears watching. Our nursing students may soon expect nursing education to provide similar cost-saving resources.

Source: Rangamani P. Open source textbooks: making education more affordable. STEM. Edu. AAAS MemberCentral; October 21, 2011. Available at Accessed November 1, 2011.

Submitted by: Robin E. Pattillo, PhD, RN, CNL, news editor at

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