Modify an Open Textbook

Adapt. Remix. Modify. Whichever term you use, the end result is the same; a customized version of a textbook suitable for your context. This is one of the primary affordances of open textbooks released with Creative Commons licenses; educators can legally change, alter, delete, add to, improve, and enhance the resource to fit their specific context (the one exception, of course, are textbooks released with a No Derivative Creative Commons license).

However, just because educators now have the legal means to modify an open textbook, not many do. In their 2012 paper Examining the Reuse of Open Textbooks, Hilton, Wiley & Lutz note that only about 7.5% of instructors who adopt an open textbook modify the textbook.

Of the modifications that do occur, Hilton, Wiley & Lutz outline 4 common modification activities faculty undertake when they do adapt an open textbook.

  1. Additions occur when a user adds material to a book by inserting one or more new chapters, sections, paragraphs, or characters in an existing paragraph.
  2. Deletions occur are when a user removes one or more chapters, sections, paragraphs, or characters from an existing paragraph.
  3. Reorders occur when a user changes the sequence in which chapters appeared in the book or the sequence in which sections appeared in a chapter.
  4. Remixing occurs when a user imports content from one book into another book.

Depending on the scope of the changes you wish to make, modifying a textbook can be a challenging task with both technical and pedagogical challenges.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle most faculty face are technical challenges. Even a realtively minor change to a textbook can be impeded because the textbook is not available in a format that can be edited. For example, many open textbooks are only made available in PDF format, which is not a file foramt that can easily be edited.

If you are faced with a textbook available only in PDF format, your editing choices are limited. Your best bet is to contact the author of the original textbook and try to get the source of the book. Often, the textbook author has created the textbook in another format and has then converted to PDF to distribute to students. So, getting the source files for the textbook is important if you are considering altering the textbook.

Another option for editing the textbook is to try to find the textbook in either the Connexions, MERLOT or OER Commons repository. All three of these repositories have built in textbook editing tools that you can use to modify a textbook. For example, if you wish to adopt an OpenStax College textbook, you will have an easier time learning to use the Connexions editing platform than trying to edit the textbook in another tool since those textbooks were made using the Connexions platform. However, you will have to invest some time into learning a platform. But if you are planning to adopt a textbook available in either of these repositories and wish to make modifications to it, the investment will pay off.

Further Reading

  • 6 Steps to Adapting an Open Textbook. Provides some more tools and tips on how you amy want to approach an adaptation project. This article also has a list of some of the tools you may want to explore to edit an open textbook.
Last modified: Sunday, 13 October 2013, 9:58 PM