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K-12 schools and districts are turning to digital textbooks for in-person, hybrid and remote learning. While textbook publishing companies now offer digital versions, you can also find open textbook options online. These open textbooks are free for schools and districts to use and distribute. Where can you find these free digital textbooks? Here are the best sources for digital textbooks you can use in K-12 grade levels.
What are digital textbooks?
Digital textbooks are textbooks that teachers and learners can access online or download to their devices. Digital textbooks have many benefits for schools and districts since they are easy to distribute and update and don’t require storage. In addition, educators and learners can access them on multiple devices at any time.
Digital textbooks are also often interactive. These versions allow learners to digitally highlight, take notes, bookmark, watch videos and use quick search tools. Teachers may also customize digital textbooks to create a personalized learning experience.
Where can you find free digital textbooks?
There are several online sources for digital textbooks free of charge. Some websites are dedicated to K-12 learning, while others feature textbooks for all learning levels or high school and college. Check out the following websites to find textbooks for your school, district or classroom.
1. Core Knowledge
Core Knowledge is a digital textbook source that offers free textbooks online to download, use, adapt and share as long as you include attribution. Their site explains that their materials are available for free because, “every child in a democracy should have access to shared, enabling knowledge.”
There are high-quality materials available for language arts, math, history, geography and science. Core Knowledge covers Pre-K through eighth grade and offers a Spanish language version of their materials. If you’re looking for elementary or middle school materials, this is a great place to start.
OpenStax has some of the best online textbooks. They are peer-reviewed and available for free through an open license. Experts developed OpenStax’s digital textbooks, so you can feel confident that the information is accurate.
While some subjects cover higher education, you can browse the high school section to find math and science textbooks for secondary education. You can also browse specific subjects to find textbooks appropriate for your learners.
For example, under “Math” you’ll find digital textbooks covering algebra, pre-calculus and calculus. Under “Humanities” you’ll find textbooks covering U.S. history and writing.
CK-12 is a nonprofit foundation that creates high-quality content for learners. CK-12 FlexBooks® are free digital textbooks that are standards-aligned and customizable. The foundation offers textbooks for grades K-12, and you can search by math, science, language arts, social studies and even photography. You can also search for English or Spanish language versions. For districts wanting to use digital textbooks in schools, CK-12 has several options.
4. OER Commons
OER Commons is a digital library full of open educational resources (OER). While their library contains several different types of materials, it is also a source for digital textbooks.
On the homepage, click on the advanced search. Under “Material Type,” select “Textbook.” You can also set a subject and grade level to refine your search.
The search results will show you available textbooks along with license information. Most are open to use and share, but be sure to read about the license before distributing them across your school or district.
Wikibooks is a public library featuring open-content digital textbooks. You can search their shelves, which are listed by subject, to find textbooks for your learners. Some shelves are geared specifically to K-12, such as K-12 mathematics or Wikijunior, which has nonfiction books for readers up to age 12.
Anyone can edit the textbooks, so it’s important for you or your instructional team to review the content before using it with your learners.
MERLOT is “is an international community of educators, learners, and researchers.” The site features open educational resources, including digital textbooks.
To search for digital textbooks, click on “Browse for Materials.” On the next page, select filters to refine your search results. To search for textbooks, under “Material Type,” check “Open (Access) Textbook.” You can also select a discipline (subject) and a K-12 grade level such as grade school, middle school or high school.
Search results will give a star rating for a peer review and a user rating to help you find high-quality materials. You can also submit an open digital textbook to share with the community.
7. Open Textbook Library
Open Textbook Library is a digital textbook source that has materials that are free to download, use, adapt and distribute. The textbooks come from a variety of publishers and authors, and the majority of their textbooks are peer-reviewed by professors.
While many of the textbooks are geared toward higher-education, some are appropriate for high school. There are also education textbooks that teachers can use to find strategies for instruction.
TextBookGo is a website that has free e-textbooks that teachers and students can download. You can search by subject or enter a title, author or topic. The textbooks cover subjects that work well for secondary grade levels, although some are written for college courses. There are thousands of textbooks available on the site.
LibreTexts is a site that contains libraries with free online textbooks. The site states, “We believe everyone should have access to knowledge.” Each library is focused on a subject area, such as mathematics, biology or Spanish. Once you select a library, you can then visit “Bookshelves” to find a more specific topic. From there, you’ll find textbooks pulled from a variety of sites, such as OpenStax or CK-12. The site is a helpful option if you want to search from multiple sources.
10. Rebus Community
Rebus Community is a site to share and find open digital textbooks. When you visit the site, you’ll see textbooks listed in different stages. Some are in the process of being written or edited, while others are completed. Textbooks span different subjects and levels. You can search by subject and stage of development or upload your own digital textbook project to share.