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Build Your Textbook: 6 Steps

Why Modify an Existing Work

Consider any modifications you may need to make to the content to ensure it is appropriate for your own course learning outcomes, assessment approaches as well as your teaching style.  For example, you may wish to add, delete, re-order or re-mix the existing content.

The following is a modified list of reasons to modify an existing work that appeared in the article Why remix an Open Educational Resource? by Liam Green-Hughes and used under a CC-BY license. 

  • Adapt the material to make it more accessible for people with different disabilities
  • Insert cultural specific references to make a concept easier to understand
  • Translate it into another language
  • Correct any errors or inaccuracies
  • Update the book to add the latest research discoveries or theories
  • Insert more media or links to other resources
  • Chop the book into smaller chunks that might be easier to learn from, or could be reused elsewhere
  • Adapt it for a different audience  
  • Change the target educational level 
  • Add input and participation from students who might be using the textbook
  • Expand the textbook by adding in other information
  • Insert differing viewpoints to that originally given in the material
  • Adapt it for different teaching situations. 

Editing Tools

The options availabe to you to edit and publish an existing open textbook or resource may vary depending on the platform or format in which the original item is made available.

Original Format Possible Editing Tools (web-based)   Possible Editing Tools (Desktop)
Word or Open Office     Google Docs, PressBooks    Microsoft Word, OpenOffice
ePub PressBooks Sigil, Calibre
Text Google docs, PressBooks Word, OpenOffice
LaTex ScribeTex TeXworks, Texmaker
HTML Google Docs, PressBooks, Media Wiki Dreamweaver, MS Expression Web
OpenStax College Connexions n/a

Other Editorial or Conversion Tools

  • CAST UDL Book Builder 
  • Calibre (Windows & Mac) an ePub reader & document conversion tool. 
  • Sigil – Open Source tool for creating and/or editing ePub books
  • eCub – Another Open Source tool for creating and/or editing ePub books
  • Pandoc – Universal document conversion tool (LaTeX, Word, ePub, HTML & more)
  • Adobe Acrobat Pro – Not free, but useful for converting PDF to other formats
  • PDFtoHTML – Open source utility to convert PDF to HTML
  • TeXworks (Win/Mac/Linux) – Open Source TeX documents editor
  • Texmaker (Win/Mac/Linux) – Open Source LaTeX editor.

Things to Consider Before Making Content Modifications

Consistency is key: when modifying an existing textbook or resource, you need to ensure that the final product is consistent throughout to ensure a positive learning experience. 

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.


1.       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.

 2.      Layout:

  • 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?

3.       Resource integration:

  • How are other resources, such as photos, graphs, diagrams and multimedia content (video or audio links) integrated and labelled 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 (

4.      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.