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Colleges Going Green with “Open Source” Textbooks

By Courtney Thomas, Eco Promotional Products, Inc.

Move to "open source" textbooks saves students money and reduces carbon footprints.

Textbooks have always been a huge expense for college students and before the shift to digital, a huge strain on our nation’s trees.  Colleges and universities and their professors are making the move to open source textbooks which are available online for students to download for free.

University of Illinois professor and associate director of the UI School of Earth, Society and Environment Jonathan Tomkin couldn’t find an ideal textbook for his introductory Earth Systems class so he tapped his colleagues for help in writing their own.  The book, “Sustainability: A Comprehensive History,” has been used at a dozen colleges and universities.

In North Dakota, Michelle Murphy, an assistant professor of biology and other pre-nursing science courses at Lake Region State College of Devils Lake in North Dakota recently implemented a 132-page online biology textbook her students can access online for free.

On average, students in this country spend around $1,200 a year on books and supplies, according to the College Board.

In January, The University of Massachusetts reached an agreement with where by the bricks-and-mortar on-campus bookstore will be replaced by an virtual bookstore. UMass students can buy new, used and digital textbooks online at an estimated cost savings of $380 per year.

State and federal grants are available for colleges and universities and their professors for the purpose of implanting open source textbooks. This in turn is
helping make college more affordable for students.

If college students do not have access to similar programs at their schools, there are other ways to go green with textbooks. Re-use other student’s textbooks or exchange or rent textbooks through sites like,, and


Sources:  The News Gazette, Masslive, Grand Forks Herald, image: