Creating Your Own Public Domain Textbook in Pressbooks

Why Create Your Own Public Domain Text

It is easy to provide students with a link to a free public domain text on the web; however, you can provide a far superior learning experience by making a copy of that text and customizing it for use with your students. Public domain works are an ideal canvas for both tailoring the text to your objectives for the course and for allowing students to showcase their work beyond the classroom.

This chapter contains a couple of easy-to-implement ideas using Pressbooks as the platform for the hosting the public domain text.  Upcoming chapters will provide additional examples and case studies of using public domain texts as the basis of open assignments.

Add an Introduction to the Text

Adding a customized introduction to the text allows you to orient your students to the assigned text.  You can provide guidance specific to the themes, topics, literary styles, etc. that you would like to cover in your course.

You could also consider having students create introductory materials for sections in the text.  This can be built into an assignment to create a living textbook that can be built upon in subsequent iterations of the course.

Create a Glossary

With Pressbooks it is easy to create an interactive glossary of terms to supplement the text. Glossary terms are underlined in your Pressbooks book, and, when clicked, will display the definition of the word.  With a glossary you can define words that may be unfamiliar to students and provide additional material about references in the text that may be obscure to some readers. How to create a Pressbooks glossary.

Seed your Text with Annotations

Using a tool such as, which is integrated with Pressbooks, you can annotate text with questions for discussion. How to annotate with

Include Interactive Activities

Interactive activities can be added to your Pressbooks with the integrated H5P tool.  This tool lets you create and add over forty different types of activities to your book.  These activities can include multiple choice questions, fill in the blanks, flashcards, presentations, timelines and many other interactive components. How to use H5P.

These are just a few examples of how you can start customizing public domain texts for use in your courses.  The Open Pedagogy: Some Tools chapter provides more details on how to customize your public domain text.


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Public Domain Core Collection Faculty Guide by Brock University and Ryerson University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.