How to Adapt an Open Textbook

10 What Are the Changes

Last update: Sep 13/22


What will you change?

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

  • Changing the title of the book, some or all of its chapters or chapter sections
  • Adding one or two new images
  • Removing a chapter that isn’t pertinent to your course
  • Removing a chapter to be used, 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 course curriculum.
  • Chapters might be reordered to more accurately fit the order 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 Resources: Search and Find in the Self-Publishing Guide. Also take a look at Resources: Only the Open.

Maybe you decide to write new material to fill in the gaps of an existing textbook such as new examples or exercises. (If you do this and plan to release the finished work as an open textbook, remember that your new work will be included under this licence.)

Will it be difficult?

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

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

Keep a record of 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 licence, 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
  • 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 Statement.

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. (Check the licence of the image you plan to change to ensure that its permissions fit your intended change.)

For more information on:

Use a copy editor and subject-matter expert

Even the best author benefits from the keen eyes of a copy editor. This individual looks at your work with fresh eyes and can 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.


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Adaptation Guide Copyright © 2016 by BCcampus is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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