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Faculty/Staff: Tips from the Library: Free alternatives to textbooks

Provides tips about library resources and services for all staff. Also includes library resources for teaching and research such as copyright, selecting a publisher, and textbook alternatives.


Library resources may be used for course readings. For some courses, they might replace the need for students to buy a textbook for a course.

Books, book chapters, and articles are available through library subscriptions for all students, faculty and staff.

IMPORTANT.  When selecting the library material you want to use as a course reading:

  1. Make sure that the sources you select may be accessed by multiple students at one time. This is not an issue for most journal and magazine articles. However, multi-person access to e-books and chapters in e-books is not available on a couple of the library's e-book platforms, for example, Safari Tech Books. (for more information, see the e-book tab above).
  2. Make sure that the sources you select include the full text or pdf of the content (not just citation and abstract). This is primarily a concern in magazine and journal article databases -- where some journals allow full articles to be distributed by the database and some do not.
  3. Look for a permanent url that can be used for direct access to the item you've selected and include it in the citation in the reading list. Beware of grabbing the url found at the top of your browser window, which often does not work to get back to the article or book chapter. Databases will provide a way of getting a permanent url. For example, in Ebscohost databases such as Academic Search Premier or Business Search Premier, look for the link labeled "permalink."
  4. Be sure that students understand that they will need their library ID and password to login to library material when they are off ot the Madison campus.


Where to find course readings - Part 1.

Use the Mundt Library's multidisciplinary research databases and/or specialized (by subject) databases to find material.

  • For more detailed information on finding and using the Library's e-books, go to the "E-books" tab above.
  • To find online articles for your reading lists and assignments, use research databases that cover your discipline. Find the research databases by:
    • using the Library's searchable and browseable list of "Research Databases by Subject" and/or
    • using the research databases recommended in one of the Library's research guides for your discipline which can be found in the Mundt Library's list of Research Guides for courses/majors/subjects.

For help, contact DSU Librarians Mary Francis or Risë Smith.

Where to find course readings - Part 2.

A Campus Technology article lists 11 sites where you can explore and get open source textbooks: 

Schaffhauser, Dian. (2013, Aug. 14). The Price is Right: 11 Excellent Sites for Free Digital TextbooksCampus Technology, 26(12), online.

The sites provide free e-textbooks on the open web.

Karl E. Mundt Library, Dakota State University, Madison, South Dakota 57042