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Textbook Alternatives at Drake: Open Textbooks

The purpose of this site is to inform Drake instructors on various alternatives to "traditional" textbooks

Adopting An Open Textbook - In 4 Steps

Adoption of Open Textbooks

A Quick Start in 4 Steps

Step 1:  Find an Open Textbook 

Use one of the sources at left or from elsewhere in this guide.

    Step 2:  Review and Select an Open Textbook

    As you search for open textbooks in repositories, consider what criteria you will use to select appropriate an open textbook for your own use. You can develop your own criteria or consider adapting existing criteria from other sources.

    Make your selection based on criteria such as:

    • Quality of content, literary merit and format
    • Accuracy
    • Timeliness
    • Favorable reviews
    • Permanence/lasting value
    • Authority of author
    • Scope and depth
    • Physical quality
    • Formats available: print, CD-ROM, online, etc.
    • Reading level and writing style
    • Accessibility
    • Language(s)
    • Copyright restrictions on modification and reuse
    • Cultural relevance
      • Cultural factors include race, ethnicity, language, nationality, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, income level, and occupation.  Ensure that information is relevant to the intended students' social and cultural contexts.

    Also, check for ratings, reviews or endorsements of open textbooks and OER by professional societies and organizations.  For example, some professional organizations use an endorsement Lens at Connexions to indicate that content meets their minimum standards.

    Step 3: Customize your Selection as desired

    Few existing open textbooks will meet all your instructional needs so you may want to customize the open textbook you have selected. 

    Consider the following ways you may want to modify the open textbook to make it more appropriate for your teaching style:

    • Combine two or more open textbooks and OER.
    • Rearrange the content in the open textbook.
    • Add a glossary, hyperlinks, and test bank.
    • Make edits to improve accuracy and currency.
    • Make the content usable by students with visual impairment.

    The BookBuilder tool at CAST is just one of several tools that can be used to create your own customized version of the open textbook.  Another tool is available from BongoBooks.

    If the open textbook you selected is in the Connexions repository, you can make your own copy of the open textbook then make your own modifications as a 'derivative work.'

    CK12 and Flat World Knowledge allow for development of modified versions of open textbooks.

    Step 4:  Disseminate Your Open Textbook to Your Students

    Disseminate your open textbook in either digital or print format to students in your course.  Be sure to give your students clear instructions about appropriate use of printing services on your campus. Try to coordinate with the student computer labs, library, bookstore, and printshop on your campus.


    1.  Email the website address of the open textbook to your students.

    2.  Download the open textbook as a file (e.g., Word, Open Office, PDF).  Email the file to your enrolled students.

    3.  Post the website address or document file to your students' course management system course site.

    If the Word document file or PDF is too large to email or post, use a free online file storage or file sharing service such as

    Students can download and print the Word document file, PDF, or website contents.

    Campus Printshop

    • Create a Word document file or PDF of the open textbook that you have selected.  Open Office is another option.
    • Email the file to your Campus Printshop per their specifications.

    Printing Services

    • Create a file (e.g., Word, Open Office, PDF) of the open textbook that you have selected.
    • Email the file to a printing service such as exlibris per their specifications.
    • Blurb provides free bookmaking software, Blurb BookSmart®, which is easy to learn.

    This work is licensed by Judy Baker under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License - 2009