How to Adapt an Open Textbook

9 Make a Plan

Last update: Sep 13/22

Before adapting an existing book, it’s important to establish a road map that will guide the timeline of the work, layout and style of the work, and desired changes. Whether your adaptation is small or large, this step is important to ensure a cohesive and consistent final product. Below are tips to help you with style and consistency.


To help you set this up, see the Style Guide in the BCcampus Open Education Self-Publishing Guide. Consider creating a style sheet as well that identifies the idiosyncrasies of your adaptation in terms of style, such as citation, spellings, and layout. For an adaptation, it is suggested that you follow the citation style used by the original author to maintain consistency throughout the open textbook.


One of the challenges of adapting an open textbook is to create a final product that is consistent throughout. It is highly recommended that you assess the original textbook before you begin. Once this has been done, attempt to match all revised and new text, resources, layout and citation styles to that of the original work.

Assess language and tone

Begin by assessing the style and tone of the original text. Here are some elements to be aware of:

  • Is the tone of the language formal, or friendly and conversational?
  • How does the author address the reader? From a distance? Or does the author include the reader with phrases such as “we learn” and “you will see”?
  • How is punctuation used? For example, are serial commas used, i.e. a comma before “and” when listing three or more things: “the cat, the dog, and the horse” OR “the cat, the dog and the horse”.
  • How long is the typical sentence? Paragraph?
  • Pay attention to the word count for existing chapters (average and range). Try to maintain this count for both new and revised chapters. Ask your project manager for assistance, if required.

What is the layout?

As you review the textbook, take note of the following:

  • Does each chapter contain specific pedagogical features such as Learning Objectives, Exercises, Summary, Suggested Readings, highlighted points of interest?
  • Does the author use lists? If so, are bullets or numbers used or something else?
  • How are headings used? Are sub-headings used? What is the highest heading level used?
  • How long are sections under a heading or sub-heading?

How are resources used?

Resources refer to all items other than text, such as photos, graphs, diagrams and multimedia content (video or audio links). Pay attention to what types of resources the original author used, how often they are inserted and how they are labelled. Ensure all external resources are either released with an open copyright licence or are in the public domain. See Fair Dealing and Fair Use in the Self-Publishing Guide.

  • Resources should have a caption (e.g., Figure 1 + description). See the Resources: Captions and Attributions section in the Self-Publishing Guide for details.
  • Differentiate between figures and tables (e.g., Figure 1.2 or Table 1.2).
  • For adaptations, use the numbering system employed by the original author.
  • For new creations, use a numbering system that incorporates the chapter number and image sequence. For example, for the first figure in Chapter 1 caption the figure, Figure 1.1.
  • New types of resources can be added to the adapted version however, keep the overall
    textbook in mind. When adding a new type of resource ensure that it enhances the flow of the book.
  • In addition to the above, we suggest the attribution be based on the best practices for attribution recommended by Creative Commons.

References and citation style

When you assess the textbook, identify both the citation style, and how and where references are listed in the book (e.g., at the end of each chapter, at the end of the book, or as footnotes). Note how in-text citations are used including punctuation. Consider using the same citation style.


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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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