Adapt an Existing Open Textbook

Adapt an Open Textbook: Three Steps Before You Begin

When adapting an open textbook, keep it simple, especially if you are approaching a remix project for the first time. While it may be tempting to make a number of major changes to a textbook before releasing it to your students, think of the textbook as a living resource that you can improve incrementally over time.

Here are three steps to consider before adapting an existing textbook.

Step 1: Check the license

First, check the license to make sure you have permission to modify the content. As long as the Creative Commons license does not have a No Derivative (ND) attribute, you will be able to change the contents of the book.

Step 2: Check the file format

If you want to adapt an open textbook, you will need it in a workable technical format, i.e. an editable file type. These include:

  • Pressbooks or WordPress files (.xml or .wxr)
  • HTML files (.html)
  • Word document (.docx) or OpenDocument Text (.odt)
  • Simple text files (.txt)
  • EPUB (see Appendix A – Export Google Documents as ePub Files
  • LaTeX files (if the original book includes math or science formulas and equations)

Avoid PDF documents

Many open textbooks are only available as  PDF documents, which are not editable. If you want to adapt an open textbook that is only available in PDF format, you will need to convert the PDF document to one of the editable formats listed above.

Converting a PDF document to an editable format is a difficult, time consuming, and imprecise process. Before taking the time to do this, consider contacting the author and asking for a copy of the textbook’s source files.

Step 3: Use editing tools

Once you have an editable file, you are ready to begin your adaptation. The tools you use to create your adaptation will depend on the source file of the original textbook and how comfortable you feel working with the format and tool.


One commonly used publishing and editing tool is Pressbooks. This web-based tool is based on the popular WordPress authoring platform. Working in Pressbooks is similar to working in a blogging software like WordPress, or a Learning Management System (LMS) such as BrightSpace by D2L, or Moodle.

You can import a number of different formats into Pressbooks for editing including Word, EPUB, and HTML. Pressbooks can then export your source files as EPUB (for use in most e-readers), MOBI (for Kindles), PDF (for printing), HTML, ODT, and XML (for Pressbooks and WordPress).

For more information about using Pressbooks, see the Working in Pressbooks section of this book.

Text adapted from: BC Open Textbook Adaptation Guide



Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Ryerson Open Textbook Authoring Guide Copyright © 2017 by Ryerson University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book