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B.C. post-secondary students taking the 40 most popular classes will soon save money by accessing free online textbooks instead of purchasing books. (Canadian Press)

The B.C. government is offering free online textbooks for post-secondary students who are taking the 40 most popular courses.

Advanced Education Minister John Yap says up to 200,000 students could save money next year.

"This new approach — open learning, free online textbooks — will help reduce the costs and help make education more affordable," he said.

The province will work with post-secondary institutions to implement the open textbook policy, with a plan to have the textbooks online as early as next year.

The province estimates students spend $900 to $1,500 each year on textbooks. The online textbooks will be free to view and can be printed for a fraction of the price of traditional texts.

Yap says B.C. is leading Canada in delivering free, open textbooks, and joins several other international jurisdictions in taking a leadership role in putting technology to work for students.

He estimates the program will cost taxpayers $600,000 to $1 million each year.

With files from The Canadian Press