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Open Textbooks

This guide was developed by the CAUL Scholarly Communications Committee

Note about re-use

How do I get started using open textbooks?

  • Make it your own! Open textbook content is almost always presented in a way that makes it easy to edit, adapt and restructure. Bring the content into your favourite word processor or document layout software and start working with it.
  • Give the content a geographically relevant focus. An excellent first step in adapting any open textbook is to provide a geographic focus that suits local needs.
  • Provide format options. Open textbooks offer a huge advantage over traditional publisher supplied textbooks when they are available in many format options. Work with your library to offer your students a range of formats (e.g. epub, mobi, pdf and html). Publisher supplied e-textbooks typically come in a format that serves the digital rights management needs of the publisher, with little regard for student accessibility.
  • Use your course management system. If you are stumped on how to deliver your open textbook, consider making it available through the course management system available at most institutions.
  • Give back. If you have found useful texts, go back to the site that you found them on and provide a helpful review. Others need to know what is good and not so good about these resources.

Consider this ...

Remember, when considering an open textbook for your course,  there are only 3 possible outcomes:

  • Lower costs and poorer learning outcomes
  • Lower costs and similar learning outcomes
  • Lower costs and better learning outcomes

Open textbooks always cost less that a traditional published textbook. When lower costs are combined with similar or better outcomes, there is a net benefit to the student. These net benefits to students will occur twice as often for open textbooks than a traditional fee based text.

This material is based on original writing by David Wiley, which was published freely under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license at: