The open eBooks on iTunes U use the EPUB format, so they are readable on a wide variety of mobile devices.

Rice University has joined Oxford University and The Open University in contributing free, open eBooks to the iTunes U web site, using the burgeoning EPUB format that lets students read eBooks on a variety of eReader devices becoming more prevalent in higher education.

Rice’s contribution of 18 of its most popular titles came from the Houston-based university’s open education program, Connexions, which logs about 2 million visits every month, according to an Oct. 29 university announcement.

The open eBook additions from Oxford, Rice, and The Open University—an online school based in the United Kingdom with more than 250,000 students—will be accessible not only on eReaders like Apple’s iPad and the Barnes & Noble Nook, but also mobile devices like the iPhone and Android-based smart phones because they are printed using the EPUB format.

The Open University has become an iTunes U staple in recent years. The school claims to be the first to reach 20 million downloads on iTunes U, tallying more than 27 million iTunes downloads to date. Data show more than 312,000 downloads of content from The Open University on the iTunes U site every week.

Adding electronic books and articles that are accessible not only on a laptop or desktop, Rice officials said, has become a priority for purveyors of web-based educational resources.

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