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Revising a Textbook


One of the promises of Open Textbooks is flexibility for instructors to modify and customize them for specific course designs. Here are some initial considerations on editing an open textbook.

  • Current format
    • Some textbooks are available in formats that while easy to view and print, are not easy to edit. Check your selection and see if the website offers a way to edit it, or provides an editable copy such as a word processing file.
    • Modular design in a textbook makes it much easier to revise for specific course design. Check that your selected textbook is presented in modules or units that can be dealt with separately if needed.
    • Is your textbook hyperlinked so that students can move through material both in a linear pattern AND in response to immediate needs? Be mindful not to lose useful cross links when revising content.
  • License and Attribution
    • What version of Creative Commons or other open licensing is the textbook offered under? Not all open licenses allow revision or republication.
  • Student Access
    • If the textbook you choose is editable, do you also have the software or support to re-distribute it in a format that students can access?
      • While Acrobat READER is free, Adobe Acrobat Professional, the software used to CREATE accessible PDF's is not. You will need it if you plan to provide a PDF to your students.
  • Instructor Skill Set
    • If you want to revise a textbook, examine your own proficiency with software
    • Is the file format in a software program you know fairly well?
    • If you will edit online, is the program offered easy to understand and use?
    • If you want to make changes to graphics or other unique learning aids like equations or diagrams, do you have the software and know-how to rework them?
  • Extent of revisions
    • Finally, consider how much you wish to change. Minor tweaks can seem easy, but if they are numerous, they still take time.
    • If changes you want are substantive, you may want to search for a better match. Extensive content changes can be challenging.
    • When edits need to be structural, such re-arranging the order of chapters, open textbooks are quite flexible.


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