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Students in B.C., including at the University of Victoria, will have free access to textbooks for the 40 most popular courses in the province.CHAD HIPOLITO/The Globe and Mail

The B.C. government is offering some financial relief for post-secondary students who are taking the 40 most popular courses.

Textbooks for those classes will soon be offered to students online for free.

The government says as many as 200,000 students a year could benefit from the changes, with each saving hundreds of dollars or more each year.

It says it will work with postsecondary institutions to implement the open textbook policy, with a plan to have the textbooks online as early as next year.

Advanced Education Minister John 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.

Alan Shaver, president of Thompson Rivers University, says offering key textbooks online helps both on-campus learners and those enrolled in distance programs.