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Textbook Guide

A guide to finding low-cost textbooks and textbook alternatives


For Instructors

There are many potential benefits to assigning readings from sources other than traditional textbooks that students have to purchase.

Contact your Subject Librarian to explore options:

Assign Library Resources

Online Resources

Online resources in the MacEwan Library collection can be assigned to students by simply providing them with a link to this content. 

Visit Linking to Online Resources to ensure students can access these resources when off-campus.

Physical Resources

Physical resources in the library collection can be placed on reserve for short-term loan at the Library Services desk in John L. Haar Library.

Library staff can also make digital copies of book chapters or DVDs in the Library’s physical collection. These resources can then be made available for your students in Blackboard.

Visit Items on Physical Reserve to learn more. 

Course Resource Lists in mêskanâs

Instructors can gather course materials from the library's collection, as well as free online resources, in mêskanâs for students to access.

Library staff are available to help with this. Visit Course Outline Service to learn more.

Open Textbooks

Open textbooks are free to use, share, and modify under Creative Commons licenses.

Publish an Open Textbook

MacEwan Open Books is an easy-to-use platform using Pressbooks software that can be used to create or modify existing open textbooks that can be shared and downloaded in a variety of formats. 

If interested, review the Terms of Use for this service and fill out the Request Form.

Learn more:

Other Options

Keep Using Older Editions

Only switch to a new edition of a textbook if the content is outdated or the edition becomes unavailable from publishers. This gives students more opportunities to buy used copies and sell them when they are no longer needed.

Find Lower Cost Alternatives

  • Is there a cheaper textbook with comparable content?
  • Can you replace a textbook with library resources like scholarly articles, eBooks, and book chapters, or sources that students can access freely online? 

Switch to a Digital Rental Option

Consider assigning a textbook with a digital rental option. The following sites offer rental options for many popular textbooks:

Benefits of Textbook Alternatives

There are many potential benefits to assigning textbook alternatives.

For help exploring options, connect with your Subject Librarian


  • Improve student access to assigned resources in a variety of formats
  • Include more diverse voices 
  • Develop new opportunities for student engagement 
  • Incorporate more flexibility to regularly update content


  • Publish an original open textbook
  • Adapt an existing open textbook 
  • Do research on the impact of open and affordable textbook options
  • Write and receive grants for open textbook projects


  • Provide peer-review for new or existing open textbooks
  • Participate in or lead initiatives to provide new and improved options for students
  • Mentor others developing and redeveloping courses with open and affordable options
This page includes content adapted from Open Education in Promotion, Tenure, and Faculty Development 
Licensed under CC BY-NC | Details and Exceptions