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Open and Affordable Course Materials

1. Find, Adapt and/or Create Content

When creating new content for your textbook to address specific learning outcomes or other pedagogical elements of your course, you may not have to start from scratch. Start by exploring existing openly licensed content and if possible, adapt it to meet your needs.

See: Find OERs and Adapt and Remix an Existing OER.  

2. Ensure Accessible Design

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) is provincial legislation created with the intent of achieving accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities by 2025, in five areas.  Pertinent to educators Section 12: 'Accessible formats and communication supports', requires that:

'[E]very obligated organization shall upon request provide or arrange for the provision of accessible formats and communication supports for persons with disabilities'.

3. Organize Layout and Style

TIP: Plan ahead - Pressbooks, Queen’s Open Textbook editing and publishing platform, provides a set of pre-made box features that you can use to structure your chapters (see below)

  • Learning Objectives
  • Key Takeaways (can be relabelled as Key Terms)
  • Exercises (or related items such as Answers, Questions)
  • Other content can be segmented using Pressbooks 6 Headings levels, heading 1 being the most prominent and largest

Before you begin your adaptations:

Before making any modifications review the existing textbook or resource and attempt to match all revised and new text, resources, layout and citation styles to that of the original work.

Language and tone:

  • Is the tone of the language formal, or friendly and conversational?
  • How does the author address the reader? E.g. with phrases such as “we learn” and “you will see”?
  • How is punctuation used? 
  • How long is the typical sentence? Paragraph?
  • Word count for existing chapters? Try to maintain the average count throughout.


  • 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 etc? 
  • How are headings used? Are sub-headings used?
  • How long are sections under a heading or sub-heading?

Resource integration:

  • How are other resources, such as photos, graphs, diagrams and multimedia content (video or audio links) integrated and labeled in the text? What types of resources are used? Caption (e.g. Figure 1 + description)
  • Figures and tables. E.g: Figure 1.2 or Table 1.2
  • When adding  a new type of resource ensure that it enhances the flow of the book
  • Attribution: consider using the attribution layout recommended by Creative Commons (

References and citation style:

  • Identify both the citation style, and how and where references are listed in the original 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.  

Develop a Style Guide

Establish a consistent style guide for your content, specifying the citation style, use of punctuation, font type and size, use of numbering, layout etc.  See:  

4. Prepare Your Content for Pressbooks

Prepare Your Content for Upload to Pressbooks

Pressbooks, Queen's Open Textbook editing and publishing platform (a province-wide partnership with eCampus Ontario), provides a set of pre-made box features that you can use to structure your chapters:

  • Learning Objectives
  • Key Takeaways (can be relabelled as Key Terms)
  • Exercises (or related items such as Answers, Questions)


5. Working with Copyeditors

Copyeditors add an important element to the creation or revision of a textbook. They provide an objective set of eyes that ensures grammar and spelling are correct, the style is consistent (see Style Guide), and that the book’s language will be suitable and understandable to the students reading it.

While the basic rules of copy editing apply whether working on a traditional or open textbook, there are some key differences. When working with a copy editor or other collaborators on an open textbook, keep the following in mind:

  • It’s important that editors, authors, and other participating parties understand how the Pressbooks platform works, and how changes in the textbook will be made so that no one overwrites someone else’s work.
  • Like print books, starting with a standard style guide is important. As the project progresses, be sure to record styling exceptions for the textbook on a style sheet. Openly licensed textbooks have special requirements such as ensuring that all images are properly licensed and correctly attributed.
  • A web-based textbook will likely make use of live links (in the body and reference lists), and multimedia. Determine at the outset who is responsible for those links and other embedded content.
  • A web-based textbook and online platform can introduce additional technical challenges. Technical problems should be reported via