College of the Mainland student Levi Roady accesses his physics textbook online.

Marc Cram paid tuition and fees for his College of the Mainland physics class, but there is one cost he did not have to pay – books.

 “I downloaded a PDF,” explained Cram. “I didn’t have to pay anything to download the file. It’s a lot better than paying $200 or $300 for a book that probably has the same information.”
The class, taught by Herman Trivilino, has used the free OpenStax College textbook, part of an initiative developed by Rice University, for the past two years.
Students can download a PDF or view a copy on the Web for free. Printed copies cover just the printing costs.
“Why pay for something much more expensive? Some books are $300,” said Trivilino. “There are physics textbooks 10 times more, and they are not 10 times better.”
Plus, electronic copies offer advantages.
“When I'm teaching I'll just bring up the PDF on the screen,” explained Trivilino.  

Heather Brasher also uses an OpenStax book in her biology class.

“I polled my students. Everybody who used it said it was straightforward and covered material covered in class,” said Brasher. “It has the same information and I can’t see having students spend $150 for a book that they can keep for free.”
Casey Hyde, who works at Marathon in addition to attending classes at COM appreciates the convenience.
“I do use it anywhere I can get a hold of a computer,” said Hyde. “I can do it at work or (anywhere I) get Internet connection. You can enlarge (the text) or interact with it.”
The OpenStax College program was begun at Rice University to meet the need of students for more affordable information. With 13 books completed and more being created, OpenStax College offers free textbooks developed and peer-reviewed by educators.

A nonprofit organization, OpenStax College is funded through the support of philanthropic foundations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“They are entry-level textbooks,” said Dani Nicholson, assistant director of communications for OpenStax College. “We’ve saved students $30 million in about two years.”