Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Open Education Resources: Textbook Affordability Subcommittee

Where to find open, free & affordable textbooks

More info available on the Textbook Affordability Subcommittee website

​The OER Task Force formed to provide textbooks for students as inexpensively as possible, and no more than $50 a book. More information about the Textbook Affordability Subcommittee is here.

Community College Consortium on OER

The Community College Consortium on Open Education Resources (CCCOER), established in 2007 in the Foothill-De Anza Community College District, is "a joint effort by individual community colleges, regional and statewide consortia, the Open Courseware Consortium,  the American Association for Community Colleges, the League for Innovation in the Community Colleges, and many other educational partners to develop and use open educational resources, open textbooks, and open courseware to expand access to higher education and improve teaching and learning."

Students' attitudes towards textbooks survey results

In January and February 2019 a survey on students' attitudes towards textbook costs was sent out via email. Read the results from 261 respondents by downloading the file below.

What makes a course sero textbook cost, or ZTC?

What makes a course ZTC?


Courses can be listed as ZTC (‘Zero Textbook Cost’) if they use course materials that are free and/or open source. That means you’re using any of the following:

  • An open-source Open Educational Resource (OER) that is free to students (and most OER are);
  • Public domain materials, including public websites;
  • College library e-Resources (including academic journal articles, using eProxy links when the article is not on an open-source journal)
  • Student- and Faculty-created materials (with attribution when available)
  • Streaming videos (e.g. YouTube, Films On Demand, Kanopy)

How do I let people know that my course is ZTC?

If your course is ZTC, then you must tell your Division Assistant, so that they can load it into Banner (and therefore WebSchedule). Otherwise, no one will know it—especially the students! (I get notification from the DA’s so that I can follow up with faculty as needed.)

How do I find OER?

Let me know! I have a number of resources, including what our colleagues at CSM and Skyline are using in their courses.

Acronyms and definitions of types of textbooks

The 5Rs of OER are the rights to retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute.

  • OER: Open Education Resource
    • This is a type of textbook or other course material that is open source and meant to educational purposes. Frequently they are copyrighted via Creative Commons.
  • ZTC: Zero Textbook Cost
    • This is a label used for course that have a textbook or course material that is free to use.
  • IA: Inclusive Access
    • This is a program that usually bundles publisher services - including textbook and publisher site access - at a lower cost.
  • Low-cost
    • This is a label that describes course materials that are cheaper than traditional publisher alternatives. In California, the definition varies although it currently seems to mean anything that costs $50 or less.


Faculty colleagues in the California Community Colleges, the California State University, and the University of California reviewed over one hundred free and open electronic textbooks in art, business, education, humanities, math and statistics, science and technology, and social science. The California OER Council developed the evaluation rubric faculty reviewers used. Each textbook was reviewed by a member of community college faculty as well as CSU and UC faculty. Read the reviews on the Cool4Ed website. 

Laws governing textbooks costs passed

Several recent laws have fueled the effort  to make textbooks more affordable.

California's three higher educational systems, the University of California, the California State University and California Community Colleges established the California Open Education Resource Council last year, as well as the California Digital Open Source Library. Two legislative bills established the goal of making higher education in California more affordable by providing faculty and students access to free and lower-cost instructional materials.

SB 1359 is a senate bill that requires colleges to mark those courses with materials that are low cost - below $50 a book - or zero cost. The bill also asks colleges to keep track of these designations and the courses they are tied to so that we can track how much students are spending on their course materials.