Adapt an Existing Open Textbook

5 How to Create a Consistent Adaptation


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.

Assessing Language and one

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 labeled.

  • Resources should have a caption (e.g. Figure 1 + description). See the Captions section for guidelines on how this are added and laid out.
  • Differentiation between figures and tables. For example: 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 will suggest the attribution be based on the layout 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 or at the end of the book), or as footnotes. Be sure to follow the same style. Note how in-text citations are used including the punctuation used.