Is there such a thing as a free textbook?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Students are being given greater choice over how they access textbook material for classes. This study examines the relationship between student choice and overall performance in an Introduction to Economics class. Simple averages suggest free online access to a textbook is associated with a grade one full letter lower than if that student had bought a traditional textbook. However, once we control for the endogeneity of student choice there is no significant difference in grade between those students who buy a traditional textbook and those that access the material in a different manner. There is an increasing variety of ways in which students can access their textbooks. Many students still use the traditional textbook, but publishers have started to offer a number of other options. For example, students can access an e-text version. This is often a PDF version of the traditional textbooks that may include the opportunity to search the text and other options. The success of Apple products, most recently the ipad, has allowed publishers to offer ibook versions of their text for a variety of e-readers. Despite the increasing variety of textbook formats little research has been conducted into how these different formats affect student understanding. This paper provides initial observations on student achievement in economics when they are provided with a variety of choices about how they access the textbook material. The results suggest that there is no difference in student outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-78
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Economics and Economic Education Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)


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