Is the quality of open textbooks equal to that of commercial textbooks?


Open textbooks:

  • are created by educators;

  • are reviewed by educators;

  • contribute to successful learning outcomes.

Although there is some variation in quality within both types of textbooks, open textbooks are often equal in quality to commercial textbooks. Moreover, the ability to embed local examples and statistics, quickly incorporate recent research developments, and otherwise customize an open textbook only further enhances its quality.

More formally, there are several ways in which one might evaluate the quality of open textbooks, including:

  1. Faculty (peer) reviews

  2. Faculty ratings

  3. Student ratings

  4. Efficacy research

  5. Several open textbook repositories, including the Open Textbook Library and the BC Open Textbook Project actively solicit and transparently publish detailed faculty reviews of open textbooks.

  6. Although awareness of one educational resources has been growing in recent years, a majority of faculty still appear to be unaware of its existence (see Allen & Seaman, 2016). Nonetheless, a review of the peer-reviewed published literature on faculty perceptions found that the majority of faculty who were aware of OER rated its quality to be equal or superior to commercial textbooks (Hilton, 2016).

  7. Peer-reviewed studies of students’ perceptions of OER show a similar trend, with a majority of students assigned OER or an open textbook rating its quality to be equal or superior to commercial textbooks (Hilton, 2016).

  8. Finally, some argue that the impact on learning outcomes is the best gauge of quality. In this case, too, a review of 9 peer-reviewed efficacy studies (with an aggregated sample of 46,149 students) found that the great majority of students using OER or open textbooks performed the same as or better than student using commercial textbooks (Hilton, 2016).

A collection of empirical research on the perceptions and efficacy of OER and open textbooks may be found at

Textbook, open, quality, published, educators, peer review, faculty perceptions, student perceptions, learning outcomes, efficacy

BCcampus.Open Textbook FAQ (CC-BY). Retrieved from