Why Adapt an Open Textbook

4 Three Steps Before You Begin

Last update: Sep 13/22

A good rule of thumb when creating an adapted textbook is to 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 licence

First, check the licence to make sure you have the permission to modify the contents. As long as the Creative Commons licence does not have a No Derivative (ND) attribute, you are able to change the contents of the book. See Creative Commons for more information on licences.

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 (webpages)
  • Word document (.docx) or OpenDocument Text (.odt)
  • Simple text files (.txt)
  • EPUB (see “Export Google Docs files as EPUB publications“)
  • LaTeX files (if the original book includes math or science formulas and equations)

Avoid PDF documents

Many open textbooks are only available as a PDF document, 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.


Pressbooks is a commonly used publishing and editing tool. You can import a number of different formats into Pressbooks for editing including.

For more information, see Export Files in the Pressbooks Guide.


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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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