Introduction to Open Access

Finding Openly Licensed Content

An open access textbook is one that you can find on the public web and has been released under an open license. The open license allows you to copy and share the textbook. The textbook can then be distributed to your students for free. In addition, you often have the right to revise the content of the textbook, customizing it to meet the specific needs of your students.


The best sources for open access textbooks that are either easily imported into Pressbooks or are avaialble in multiple formats:

Other sources for open textbooks:

From: Open Access Educational Resources Guide, Ryerson University Library and Archives

If you are adapting an existing open textbook or creating a new one, you may want to find additional resources to use. Ideally, this content will be licensed under Creative Commons. Try to find content licensed under CC-BY licenses, these will provide the most flexibility for reuse. If you are planning to make changes to the material, avoid any Creative Commons material that has the -ND (No Derivative) attribution as this content can be reused, but not adapted.

If you are looking for other Creative Commons licensed content, you can try the following services and search engines.

Creative Commons Search HippoCampus
College Open Textbooks MIT Open Courseware Online Textbooks
National Science Digital Library (NSDL) NOBA Project Textbooks
North Carolina Learning Object Repository (NCLOR) Open SUNY Textbooks
Project Gutenberg UC Davis ChemWiki
PhET: Interactive Simulations For Science and Math Saylor Academy Open Textbooks
Skills Commons Open Textbooks SOL*R

Other ways to find open textbooks or OER include:

  1. Connect with your library
  2. Ask your colleagues if they use OER
  3. Conduct an advanced Google search
  4. Ask your students to find open resources as part of a class activity. Have them do a content review and post the results to your course website or Learning Management System (LMS).

There are many more places to find open resources. A comprehensive list of openly licensed repositories, including discipline specific repositories, is located in the OER Handbook for Educators.

Open Access and Public Domain Images

You can also find open access or public domain images to add content and visual flair to your textbook. Below are some good places to find open access or free-to-use images. Check the license terms for individual images found on sources like Flickr and Wikimedia Commons as they vary.

Creative Commons Search Pixabay
Flickr CC MIT Open Courseware Online Textbooks
 NASA Images Wikimedia Commons
 Rijksmuseum Getty Search Gateway
 National Gallery of Art Public Domain  New York Public Library Public Domain Collections
Finding Openly Licensed Content is a adaptation of the chapter “Finding Openly Licensed Content” from the original BC Open Textbook Authoring Guide and the “Finding Open Textbooks” from the  BC Open Textbook Adaptation Guide. New material has been incorporated that includes Ryerson resources and the section “Open Access and Public Domain Images.”



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Ryerson Open Textbook Authoring Guide Copyright © 2017 by Ryerson University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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