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This blog was created to keep our expanding audience informed about what is going on in the world of Open Textbooks and related topics. Please read and enjoy the posts. You are encouraged to add any comments that add to the discussion.

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October 2014
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Could you create an open textbook?

Perhaps you are surprised that this post says ‘create’ rather than ‘write’? There are two reasons:

  1. If you decide to create a textbook, you may find much of it already written for classes that you and others have developed and taught. Heather Hedden outlines the steps in this post How to Turn an Online Course into a Book. Ms. Hedden cautions: ‘First, ask yourself if a textbook based on the online course would make sense commercially’. This is true for any form of publishing: on your own website, on an open textbook repository like Connexions or Orange Grove or Textbook Equity, or through a self-publisher like Lulu, an open textbook publisher like FlatWorld Knowledge, or a traditional textbook publisher.
  2. A textbook requires an entire team, not just the author. The other contributors including the project manager, researchers, fact-checkers, layout artists, editors, copy editors, translators, illustrators, photographers, technologists, marketing staff, sales people, webmasters, printers, binders, and delivery staff. As the textbook creator, you must find others to fill some of these roles and take on all of the others yourself.

Heather Hedden's Advice

Why would anyone choose to take on a project this daunting? Confidence in your ability to help others learn is the number one reason. You must be confident that you can help others gain knowledge, skills, and wisdom that they want or need. There are many other benefits: career advancement, the joy of working with a team, and financial rewards, but only your passion to help others learn the subject will motivate you to finish the project.

Ms. Hedden teaches the online workshops “Taxonomies & Controlled Vocabularies” and “Creating Website Indexes” through the continuing education program of Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science. She is turning these classes into a book titled “The Accidental Taxonomist”. Ms. Hedden provides excellent advice for mapping a textbook to a class, for choosing the publishing option, for understanding the differences between online and physical textbooks, and for keeping the textbook current. To test your resolve, try writing a single open lesson. KairoNews provides the steps required in Creating a Single Open Textbook Reading.

In Using Open Content To Drive Educational Change, Bill Fitzgerald explains some of the differences between creating a commercial textbook and creating an open textbook.

photo of bill fitzgerald wearing a blog t-shirt sitting at a computer with a hot drink nearby

Bill Fitzgerald

Your marketing goal should be to have your textbook adopted by instructors. This requires providing online, printable, and bound copies of the textbook. Working with a quality open textbook repository/publisher simplifies this multi-format requirement. Adopting instructors also need ancillaries including test banks, homework, slides, instructor’s guide, study guide, and more. By starting with an existing class, many of these ancillaries will already exist. To add to the collection, consider creating an adopter community where all the adopting instructors can share ancillaries and collaborate on using your textbook in their classes. Watch this space; in a few days we will describe eight adopter communities.

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