Adapt an Existing Open Textbook

What Will You Change?

Adapting or changing an existing open textbook doesn’t need to be onerous. The changes you make can be as simple as:

  • Changing the title of the book, or the titles of its chapters or chapter sections
  • Adding one or two new images
  • Removing a chapter that isn’t pertinent to your course
  • Extracting a chapter to be used in your course and leaving the rest of the book behind

Sometimes, an adaptation might require more than a few simple changes. For example:

  • A significant number of chapters might be removed, leaving behind just the ones that fit the curriculum.
  • Chapters might be reordered to more accurately match the sequence in which material is presented in a course.

It might be necessary to add material from other open textbooks or open educational resources to the open textbook you are adapting. For more information on where to find openly licensed images and other content, see the Finding Openly Licensed Content section of this guide.

Maybe you will decide to write new material to fill in the gaps of an existing textbook such as adding new examples or exercises. Keep in mind that when you combine new content with original content into a finished textbook, this new edition must be released under the same license as the original.

Will it be difficult?

How easy or difficult this will be depends on a number of factors, including;

  • How much content you wish to change. Do you want to remove chapters, or rewrite entire chapters of content?
  • The format of the original textbook. A Word document is much easier to modify than a PDF document.
  • The type of license the content is released under. Does it have a Creative Commons license that allows for modification or adaptation of the content?
  • How comfortable you are with using technology and creating content.

Keep a record of all changes and additions

As the author, you retain copyright of all new material you create. This means that even if the new material you create is released under an open license, as the author, you will receive attribution for your contribution.

As you edit and make changes (text and images) and/or add new material, such as a chapter or section within a chapter, keep a list so these additions/changes:

  • Can be included as part of the Copyright Notice, on each page or at the end of the book
  • Can be accurately attributed to you, the author

Minor changes, such as fixing grammatical or spelling mistakes, don’t need to be documented.

If you add material from another openly licensed work to your adaptation, especially text, record the source and where it is used in your adapted version. This information is needed for the wording and placement of each attribution statement required for each open CC-BY (Creative Commons Attribution) licensed work you use. For more information, see Attribution Statements.

Changing images: Add new ones or remove old ones

With an openly licensed resource, you are welcome to remove images that don’t fit your needs or you can add new ones. You are also permitted to edit existing images, as long as their license allows modification.

For more information on:

Consider using a copy editor and subject matter expert

Even the best author benefits from the keen eyes of a copy editor to provide feedback on grammar, spelling, readability, clarity, and consistency.

A subject matter expert (SME) — presumably a colleague or other individual who is an expert on the topic you’re writing about — can provide suggestions about the content. It is best that the SME reviews your work before the copy editor.

One final step is to have a copy editor (preferably different than the one who copy edits your work) proof read the final draft.

From the BC Open Textbook Adaptation Guide by Lauri Aesoph, CC-BY 4.0




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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.

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