Self-Publishing Guide

Self-Publishing Guide

A reference for writing and self-publishing an open textbook

Lauri M. Aesoph


Victoria, B.C.



About This Guide

Welcome to the new BCcampus Open Education Self-Publishing Guide. This support resource is designed to replace the BCcampus Open EducationAuthoring Guide [New Tab].

BCcampus Open Education began in 2012 as the B.C. Open Textbook Project with the goal of making post-secondary education in British Columbia more accessible by reducing students’ costs through the use of open textbooks and other OER. BCcampus supports the post-secondary institutions of British Columbia as they adapt and evolve their teaching and learning practices to enable powerful learning opportunities for the students of B.C. BCcampus Open Education is funded by the British Columbia Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills & Training, and the Hewlett Foundation.

Open educational resources (OER) are defined as teaching, learning, and research resources that, through permissions granted by the copyright holder, allow others to use, distribute, keep, or make changes to them. We consider this publication — along with our guides, webinar slide decks, and other support materials –as a type of OER that trains faculty, staff, and students how to build, customize, and use open textbooks.

This guide does not come with an index. Instead, use the search field located in the top-right of each page in the online version to locate a specific topic.

The BCcampus Writing Guidelines for Style and Tone [New Tab] and the attached style sheet [Word file] were referenced during the copy editing and proofreading phases of this guide.

If you find an error in this guide, please report it using the Report a Textbook Error form. For other feedback or comments, fill out the BCcampus contact form.



I’d like to thank my colleagues — Amanda Coolidge, Josie Gray, Lucas Wright, and Rajiv Jhangiani — for their thoughtful feedback and support, and Rosario Passos for first suggesting I share our team’s lessons learned with the open education community.

An extra thank you to Josie Gray for her copy editing skills and insights. Josie, your exceptional talents have made this guide that much better.


Acknowledgements: eCampusOntario


If you adopt this book, as a core or supplemental resource, please report your adoption in order for us to celebrate your support of students’ savings. Report your commitment at

We invite you to adapt this book further to meet your and your students’ needs. Please let us know if you do! If you would like to use Pressbooks, the platform used to make this book, contact eCampusOntario for an account using

If this text does not meet your needs, please check out our full library at If you still cannot find what you are looking for, connect with colleagues and eCampusOntario to explore creating your own open education resource (OER).

About eCampusOntario

eCampusOntario is a not-for-profit corporation funded by the Government of Ontario. It serves as a centre of excellence in online and technology-enabled learning for all publicly funded colleges and universities in Ontario and has embarked on a bold mission to widen access to post-secondary education and training in Ontario. This textbook is part of eCampusOntario’s open textbook library, which provides free learning resources in a wide range of subject areas. These open textbooks can be assigned by instructors for their classes and can be downloaded by learners to electronic devices or printed for a low cost by our printing partner, The University of Waterloo. These free and open educational resources are customizable to meet a wide range of learning needs, and we invite instructors to review and adopt the resources for use in their courses.



When BCcampus Open Education began, its Authoring Guide [New Tab] was created to assist faculty and staff in this province with not only writing open textbooks, but also adapting and adopting them. Basic information about open education and its resources were included as everyone began learning about this new way of teaching and learning. To our surprise and pleasure, others adapted this guide to fit their institution’s or region’s needs.

Much has happened since then. An increasing number of faculty and staff are writing open textbooks, creating a growing demand for a resource that will guide authors through not just the textbook-writing process, but also the many steps needed to carry a textbook — an openly licensed textbook with its own unique requirements — to completion. Some authors are fortunate to have the backing of an academic press or open textbook publisher. For authors who do not have this support, this Self-Publishing Guide is for you.

Using our Authoring Guide as a framework, all of the internal processes used and experiences gathered by BCcampus Open Education project managers during the first phases of the B.C. Open Textbook Project have been included in this volume. Sections about the adaptation and adoption of open textbooks and how to use Pressbooks have been removed and added to separate guides.

I have done my best, when writing this guide, to model what we preach by following the best practices outlined in it. Some of the extra steps taken with this guide include:


Attention to detail

Extra features



Topics covered in this Self-Publishing Guide

This guide was arranged into sections that take the open textbook author through the following steps of the writing and publishing process. At the end of each section, look for links to related chapters in the Open Textbook Network’s publication: Authoring Open Textbooks [New Tab].

1. Look Before You Write

In this first section, would-be authors are presented with the challenges of writing and publishing a textbook and the unique characteristics of a book that is openly licensed.

2. Prepare to Write

This part lays out issues that should be considered and addressed before starting an open-textbook-publishing project.

3. Plan Your Book

This list of topics will help you create a comprehensive plan for your textbook project.

4. Write… and More

This section discusses the many facets of the open textbook writing and creation process.

5. Edit and Review

The hallmarks of a quality textbook — peer review, copy editing, and proofreading — are covered in this part.

6. Pre-publication

These are the final tasks to complete before publication, including setting up a communication plan.

7. Post-publication

Once your textbook has been launched, look to these suggestions to help track usage and maintain a high-quality textbook.

Other open textbook guides and toolkits

BCcampus Open Education has developed several instructional guides that are designed to complement this Self-Publishing Guide.


Look Before You Write


Not Just Another Textbook

So, you’ve decided to write and self-publish a textbook. And not just any textbook — an open textbook. Before you begin, it’s important to understand the differences between an open textbook and a standard textbook, and how these contrasting characteristics might affect the open textbook author and publishing process.

Open vs. closed

Open textbooks are open educational resources or instructional resources created and shared or published in ways that allow more people to access them. They reside in the public domain — where copy rights have been waived by the copyright holder or copyright has expired — or have been released by the copyright holder under an open-copyright licence; both of these circumstances permits free use and repurposing by others. This prototype is different from how copyrighted materials are typically managed. (See Copyright and Open Licences.)

The traditional textbook-publishing model assumes that the author owns copyright for the textbook and that these rights are not shared with others. In other words, all rights are reserved so the textbook is essentially closed. If the author owns copyright, they can sell to a publisher the right to print and distribute their work. The conditions of this sale are typically outlined in a contract between the author and publisher, a document that should be reviewed by a lawyer familiar with copyright law.

On its Copyright Guidance: Copyright for Authors & Creators page [New Tab], the Yale University Library offers advice to writers who are thinking about using a publisher. They say:

Most authors of books or journal articles are required to sign an agreement with their publisher as a condition before publication.  It is important to read these agreements as they are legally binding and may have an impact on how the author can use or reuse the work.  Like any agreement, the publisher agreement should be negotiable so that the author retains some or all of the copyrights associated with the work.Yale University Library, "Copyright Guidance: Copyright for Authors & Creators" last modified June 21, 2017, (accessed February 15, 2018).

However, the distinction between publishing open textbooks, as an individual or with an open-publication press, and the more traditional textbook publishers, is beginning to blur. In a January 29, 2018 blog, David Wiley ponders:

(t)he open education community’s willingness or unwillingness to be more inclusive, welcoming, and supportive of newcomers – even those from private enterprise – will largely predict its ability to grow and have the kind of dramatic impact we all want it to have. Can you imagine a day when many of the most important contributions to many of the most important OER and open textbook projects are made by people who work for for-profit publishers and other companies, and who contribute to OER as part of their formal job responsibilities? Can you imagine a day when many of the world’s most-used OER were originally published by companies, who continue to invest in their ongoing updates and maintenance? Can you imagine a day when companies are releasing millions of new words, images, videos, and interactives under open licenses each year?Wiley, David, Weblog entry on "Reflections on 20 Years of Open Content: Lessons from Open Source," iterating toward openness, posted January 29, 2018, (accessed February 15, 2018).

Too many choices

Textbooks are often built in an online platform (software system or website) where content can easily be changed (intentionally and not) and many features can be added. Some argue that an online textbook should take full advantage of media beyond the text in a book. This alone can be stressful as one grapples with how to proceed in this sea of endless choices.

Building an open textbook adds even more alternatives to both the creator and those who are permitted to use and change the final product. The author is faced with millions of photos, illustrations, and other open educational resources from which to select and add to the textbook. Others, who want to customize the completed book — and are basically given free rein to do so — must decide what to change or add, a situation that is both exhilarating and exhausting. Trouble making decisions in an environment that presents too many options is not uncommon; in fact, it is a well-recognized cognitive process referred to as overchoice or choice overload."Overchoice," Wikipedia, last modified December 3, 2017, (accessed February 15, 2018).

Two roads dissected by a hill and a sign pointing in four different directions, each labeled as the right way

Choice overload during open textbook work can be stressful

As a future author and publisher, you’ll want to contemplate how these factors might impact your work and approach to producing an open textbook. For instance, consider how the concept of and responsibilities for writing a textbook are different than they were before open textbooks appeared. You might think about how:

  1. Open textbook authors are members of the sharing community where knowledge is freely and openly distributed so that others can build upon it. The open textbook becomes community property rather than the chattel of a single owner.
  2. An open textbook author must accept that their work will be used and changed — often without their knowledge — actions over which they have no control.
  3. Open textbook authors should be willing to share editable files of their textbook in order to allow others to make changes and/or add to it in the form of an adaptation.
  4. As the author of an open textbook, one should remain open minded and unafraid to receive and respond to feedback. In turn, the author can use input to begin conversations that will hopefully lead to knowledge sharing and building.
  5. A self-publishing author should seriously consider maintaining their completed open textbook by updating content when necessary and correcting mistakes. These steps are necessary for the ongoing quality and sustainability of their book and OER in general.

The community also has responsibilities. As a member of this group, let academic integrity be your beacon and open principles your creed.

  1. Give credit where credit is due. Copying a colleague’s openly licensed work is not considered plagiarism; however, one should be diligent about providing an accurate, complete, and well-laid-out attribution statement for each borrowed open resource. In other words, fulfill the legal terms of the open-copyright licence by giving the original author credit for their work. (See Concerns About Plagiarism.)
  2. Deliver all criticism to an open textbook author in a constructive and professional manner.
  3. Build on the existing work in the open educational commons. Like the open textbook author, be confident when sharing your ideas about these resources with others.




Meadow by geralt has been designated to the public domain (CC0).



A man using a laptop

How does your experience match the requisites of open textbook writing and publishing?

For many, writing and self-publishing an open textbook is unfamiliar terrain. However, identifying pertinent skills from past and current professions will help you gauge how your expertise fits with this new endeavour and where you need to draw on the knowledge of others to fill in the gaps. Publishing an open textbook is not a one-person job, so use the information you generate from this chapter as the springboard from which to build your team.

Publishing experience

As you consider which of your talents might transfer to producing and publishing an open textbook, write down related positions you’ve held. These might include:

Next, by each role, describe the details of that job. Then fill out the below table by matching your skills with the knowledge needed to produce an open textbook. The skills gaps can be filled by others. (See Identify Support.)

Identify the Gaps
 Area Open-Textbook-Publishing Skills My Experience Relevancy / Strength Support Required (Y/N) Potential Candidates
 Book Production book design
graphic design
project management
technology: authoring platform
 Writing / Editing copy editing
 OER open-copyright licences
copyright / public domain
OER research
OER evaluation
OER production
open textbook writing
attribution statements

Writing experience

Previous writing experience comes in handy for both you and your contributors. Seasoned textbook authors know that this kind of project can take one to three years to complete when all stages are factored in: consultation, planning, researching, writing, and publication. The writing portion alone can range from six to eighteen months, depending on the length and complexity of the book. Knowing this upfront and understanding the determination and specific skills required to complete the task helps set the stage for successful authoring.

If you haven’t authored a textbook before, create a list of other writing assignments you’ve completed or contributed to. These might be:

Qualifications as a writer — in any capacity — prepares you in other ways too. As a writer, you will know what to look for when selecting colleagues as contributing authors. (See Contributing Authors.) Although writing is not synonymous with book production, many authors are acquainted with at least some aspects of publishing. This know-how, however minor, can be very handy when planning an open textbook project. (See Textbook Outline.)


Blogging has been designated to the public domain (CC0).


Why Should I Give My Work Away?

A while back, during a presentation I was making at a faculty workshop, an instructor sitting at the back of the room looked unconvinced as I described the advantages of using open textbooks in the classroom. When the discussion turned to open licences and how they worked, she raised her hand and asked, “Why should I give my work away?” I had heard this question before and thought it was a legitimate concern. However, that instructor’s blunt query made me think about my own writing experiences and my decade of work with other authors before I joined BCcampus. I remembered a time — before the Internet and open-copyright licences — when a writer’s livelihood depended on the sale of their articles and books.

Yes, I understood an author’s hesitancy about giving their work and the rights to their work away for free. However, things had changed. The sharing and collaboration of material and permissions between educational writers and teachers have and are leading to many good things, though it can feel like a sacrifice to the individual author.

I concluded that individuals asking the question — Why should I give my work away? — have two concerns: one, they worry that by giving away their work they won’t make any money. And two, allowing others to make changes to their text book means losing control over the content. Let’s take a look at the financial concern first.

I’ll lose money


Does giving work away really lead to lost income?

I wrote two books and was certain that my hard work on each would pay off with a big cheque. Like many book authors, even those who sign a contract with a big publisher, I didn’t see any royalties after my initial advance. But maybe self-published books are different, I thought.

Not so, according to a 2013 survey conducted by Dana Beth Weinberg [New Tab] where she analyzed responses from almost 5,000 authors who took the 2013 Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest Author Survey. She found that nearly one-fifth of self-published authors earned no income from their writing and for those that did, the annual median income was less than $5,000. Even authors who worked with a publisher only made between $5,000 and $10,000 per year.D.B. Weinberg, "The Self-Publishing Debate: A Social Scientist Separates Fact from Fiction (Part 3 of 3)," Digital Book World, December 4, 2013, (accessed August 16, 2017).

So you’re probably not going to miss out on riches by giving your work away. And for those searching for financial backing to write and publish an open textbook, there are various funding sources available. (See Who Pays for This.)

Now for concern number two: won’t letting others make changes to your textbook undo your hard work, steal your control, and lead to chaos?

I’ll lose control over content

In his chapter, “You Can’t Sell Free, and Other OER Problems,” in Open: The Philosophy and Practices that are Revolutionizing Education and ScienceRobert Biswas-Diener, "You Can't Sell Free, and Other OER Problems," in Open: The Philosophy and Practices that are Revolutionizing Education and Science, ed., Rajiv S. Jhangiani and Robert Biswas-Diener (London: Ubiquity Press Ltd., 2017), 261., Robert Biswas-Diener discusses the concern many authors, and potential authors, have with their “control over content” if released into the Commons. He says:

Most peoples’ concerns regarding losing control of their intellectual property or reputation are understandable in spirit but do not play out in fact. A large part of the openness in OER is related to removing obstacles to sharing information.

Stack of books

Are you losing control or sharing your knowledge?

What’s in it for me?

If you’re not going to get rich and you’re giving up control, what reason is there to write an open textbook? During the faculty workshop I describe above, I didn’t try to defend the benefits of writing an open textbook. Instead, I asked the audience why — and if — they thought this was a worthwhile venture. This is what they said.

  1. Your work will be more widely read.
  2. There is a movement underway in which it is believed that work that is funded or supported by public funds should/must be openly shared and covered by an open licence.
  3. If authors release their original work or revisions made to someone else’s work openly, the risk of repeating existing knowledge is decreased. Instead, sharing one’s work promotes building on existing work and collaboration.
  4. Some people see this as a social justice issue in which knowledge and education need to be available to everyone, in particular members of marginalized groups who face systematic barriers.
  5. Having access to open textbooks and OER helps authors who wish to customize, or adapt, an existing work for their course, institution, region, or country. (See Reasons to Adapt an Open Textbook [New Tab] from the BCcampus Open Education Adaptation Guide.)

There is no doubt that writing a textbook requires commitment, time, and fortitude. Yet, there are certainly benefits for the author.

  1. Authoring a textbook is a form of scholarship that can influence your field and contribute to your credibility."Why do universities support faculty writing textbooks?" Academia, April 16, 2013,, (accessed August 16, 2017).
  2. Writing a textbook can lead to more professional opportunities. At the University of British Columbia, e.g., their Guide to Reappointment, Promotion and Tenure Procedures at UBC 2016-17 [PDF – New Tab] states that “Contributions to the practice and theory of teaching and learning literature, including publications in peer-reviewed and professional journals, conference publications, book chapters, textbooks and open education repositories / resources.”
  3. Sharing one’s work as an open textbook will contribute to the knowledge-sharing community and, hopefully, lead to new ideas from others who then share these out.

Show Your Work

On November 3, 2015, Sarah Hinchliff Pearson from Creative Commons introduced Austin Kleon in her blog “Anatomy of a book: Part 1 – inspiration”.Sarah Hinchliff Pearson, "Anatomy of a book: Part 1 - inspiration," Made with Creative Commons, November 3, 2015, (accessed August 15, 2017). She talked about Kleon’s book Show Your Work [New Tab] and how it “is built around 10 fundamental principles for creators.” Kleon says he shows “…how to deal with the ups and downs of putting yourself and your work out in the world…” and proclaims “…it’s time to stop worrying and start sharing.”


  1. Does giving work away really lead to lost income?Money by Eric L. is used under a CC BY-NC-SA Licence.
  2. Are you losing control or sharing your knowledge?Cardboard (cropped and border added) has been designated to the public domain (CC0).


Fair Dealing and Fair Use

Open textbooks created or adapted under the supervision of and funded by BCcampus Open Education have not used the fair-dealing clause of Canada’s Copyright Act when selecting external resources to be included in an open textbook or other open educational resources (OER). All materials created and external resources selected for these open textbooks are either released under an open-copyright licence or are in the public domain.

The definition of fair dealing according to the Library at Simon Fraser University is as follows:

Fair dealing is a user’s right in copyright law permitting use of, or “dealing” with, a copyright protected work without permission or payment of copyright royalties. The fair dealing exception in the Copyright Act allows you to use other people’s copyright protected material for the purpose of research, private study, education, satire, parody, criticism, review or news reporting, provided that what you do with the work is ‘fair’. If your purpose is criticism, review or news reporting, you must also mention the source and author of the work for it to be fair dealing."What is fair dealing and how does it relate to copyright?" SFU Library, (accessed January 23, 2018).

If you work and live in the U.S., then you are likely concerned with fair use. According to the U.S. Copyright Office:

Fair use is a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances."Chapter 1: Subject Matter and Scope of Copyright - 107. Limitation on exclusive rights: Fair use,", (accessed January 23, 2018).

For guidance on using fair dealing or fair use, consult with an intellectual-property or copyright expert at your institution or elsewhere.

A large library

For guidance consult with your local copyright librarian or other expert


Books by Pexels has been designated to the public domain (CC0).


Concerns About Plagiarism

While using and/or changing the openly licensed work of others might feel like plagiarism. It isn’t.

Merriam-Webster defines plagiarize as:

to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own: use (another’s production) without crediting the source"plagiarize," Merriam-Webster, (accessed August 8, 2017).

Using material from an open textbook or other open educational resources (OER) and adding it to your own textbook is not considered plagiarism for the following reasons:

  1. You are not stealing because the original author has already given you (and everyone else) permission to use and change their work by releasing it with an open-copyright licence.
  2. You are not stealing or passing off the original author’s ideas or words as your own because you will give the original author credit for their work with an attribution statement. Giving credit to the creator of a work is a legal requirement if you want to use an openly licensed resource.

For more information, read the Permission to Adapt [New Tab] chapter in the BCcampus Open Education Adaptation Guide.



Questions about the quality of open educational resources has been cited as one of the top three concerns among faculty who are considering adopting OER, including open textbooks, to use in the classroom.Rajiv Jhangiani et al., BCcampus Research Report: Exploring Faculty Use of Open Educational Resources at British Columbia Post-secondary Institutions, (Victoria, B.C.: BCcampus, 2016), (accessed August 1, 2017). Therefore, as an author of a textbook, it is vital to factor in the quality of your work during the planning stages.

The quality of an open textbook is determined by many different things. When designing a textbook, an author should consider the quality of the following aspects:

  1. Information. Is it current, complete, relevant, and well-cited?
  2. Design. Is it well-structured and consistent? Does it include pertinent learning objects and align with learning objectives for the intended curriculum or curricula?
  3. Accessibility. Is the content in the book accessible to the greatest number of students?
  4. Copy. Is the writing clear and concise? Is the text grammatically correct with no spelling errors? Is the writing style, spellings, layout (use of headings, bold, italics, etc.) used in an appropriate and consistent manner? Are all figures, tables, graphs, and other learning objects clearly identified, numbered, and labelled for easy reference? Is a style guide being used? Has a style sheet been created for the book?

Open-copyright licences allow people to share and build on knowledge, both of which are beneficial, and technology has made these tasks faster and easier. However, quick and simple sharing can also perpetuate an error made by the original author.

If you decide to include a portion of a colleague’s openly licensed work in your textbook, review it carefully as you would any supporting academic source.


Prepare to Write


Who Pays for This?

In terms of money, open textbooks are free for students, faculty, and anyone else to use.  But they’re not free to produce. If you decide to write and publish an open textbook, you need to think about how you are going to compensate not only the people who help you, but yourself as well. The cost of producing an open textbook is often underestimated by authors.

Before you begin, make a list of the individuals you will need to support your project and resources.

Funding and compensation comes in different forms. Besides cash, in-kind contributions should be considered. For example, your institution may offer support by providing access to instructional designers, librarians, or in-house copy editors. The OER Grants offered by BCcampus Open Education to faculty and staff in this province stipulate that:

(s)uccessful applicants must secure matching funds by their institution (for the requested OER Grant amount) in advance of submitting a proposal.BCcampus Open Education, "Open Educational Resource Grant", (accessed February 15, 2018).

Typically, the creation of an open textbook is funded (often through grants) by:

How BCcampus Open Education Began

On October 16, 2012, at the annual OpenEd conference in Vancouver, the then British Columbia Minister of Advanced Education, the Honourable John Yap, announced the creation of the B.C. Open Textbook Project.Ministry of Advanced Education, Innovation, and Technology, "B.C. to lead Canada in offering students free, open textbooks," News Release, October 16, 2012, (accessed January 23, 2018). The goal of the project was to make higher education more accessible by reducing student cost through the use of openly licensed textbooks. BCcampus was tasked with coordinating the project because of its ten-year experience funding open educational resources (OER) through the Online Program Development Fund."BCcampus to co-ordinate provincial open textbook project," BCcampus, October 16, 2012, (accessed January 23, 2018).

While open textbooks are still important, the B.C. Open Textbook Project is now known as BCcampus Open Education, a title that better describes its participation in open education initiatives.


Select a Licence

By definition, an open textbook is open because the author has decided to share their copy rights with others. This decision is indicated by posting a statement, and sometimes logo, describing the open-copyright licence — most often a Creative Commons licence. (See Creative Commons licences.)

Other times, the author chooses to release or designate their copy rights to the public domain. Creative Commons has created two public domain tools for authors who select this option. (See Public domain tools.)

Creative Commons Information Pack

The National Copyright Unit and Creative Commons Australia have jointly developed the Creative Commons Information Pack [New Tab] for teachers and students on Creative Commons (CC). The pack explains what CC is, how to find CC material, and the best way to attribute CC material.

Combining CC licences

This video, Creating OER and Combining Licenses-Full [YouTube – New Tab], was created in 2012 by TheOGRepository. It aims to help you choose compatible resources and choose a valid licence for your work.

Thumbnail for the embedded element "Creating OER and Combining Licenses - Full"

A YouTube element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:


Creating OER and Combining Licenses video by the TheOGRepository is used under a CC BY-SA 3.0 Licence.


Contributing Authors

None of us is as smart as all of us.

— a Japanese proverb"Proverbs," (accessed October 26, 2017).

As you plan the content of your book, think about experts in your field who might write on a specific topic. To help make a decision about who to approach, ask yourself if contribution from an individual will add value to your textbook and whether or not they have the experience to author a chapter or section for a textbook. Familiarity with open education is a plus.

The BCcampus Open Education team oversaw the production of fifty-four new open textbooks and ten major adaptations during its initial phase. Inviting collaborators to participate was left to the lead author who had proposed the textbook idea to us. It was felt that, as the subject-matter expert, this individual was most qualified to make these decisions. From the sidelines, our project managers watched the interplay between the primary author and their contributors. We  learned what worked and what didn’t, and how problems could be avoided in the future.

The biggest lesson learned was the importance of establishing expectations for your contributors before writing begins. If you decide to invite one or more colleagues to provide material to your textbook, determine the parameters of this business relationship and then clarify with each author the following points:

  1. Who will own copyright
  2. Disclose the type of open-copyright licence that will be used to release the book. Be prepared to answer concerns and questions for colleagues not familiar with open textbooks.
  3. Decide if contributing authors will be compensated for their efforts. Be clear about how much they will be compensated or paid.
  4. Provide written details about their contribution, including:
    1. the topic — be specific
    2. length of their work by word count
    3. layout of the contributing piece including sections and subsections, number and type of images, tables, graphs, or other support resources
    4. the timeline and deadline for the first and subsequent drafts
    5. the timeline and deadline to review questions from the copy editor and make revisions

Use a contract or written agreement to clearly describe these expectations so there are no misunderstandings. (See Appendix 4: Contracts.) This will be a valuable document to reference if either party has questions during the writing process.

If you plan to include students as contributing authors, refer to A Guide to Making Open Textbooks with Students [New Tab].


Identify Support

Many hands make light work.

— English Proverb "many hands make light work,", (accessed October 27, 2017).

Self-publishing a book is not new. With advances in technology and the advent of the Internet, this endeavour has been made that much easier. Still, producing your own book — especially a well-written, high-quality textbook — is a big undertaking, and for best results should include a team of individuals, each armed with skills that would otherwise be filled by employees at a publishing firm. Remember: When you self-publish, you become the publisher.

BCcampus published over fifty open textbooks. Each author was assigned a project manager — similar to a managing editor — who organized book layout, scheduled copy editing and proofreading, attended to editorial development, ordered the textbook cover, and saw that the book was promoted and posted in the B.C. Open Textbook Collection. When we moved to the next phase of our work and encouraged authors to look to their post-secondary institutions for support, it was recognized that many of the publishing tasks — previously filled by BCcampus staff — fell to the author. This realization was one of the impetuses for writing this guide.

The Publisher’s Role

A publisher, particularly one that specializes in textbooks, is responsible for managing all aspects of the book’s production, save the writing; that’s the author’s job. Still, the publisher guides the development and refinement of the author’s ideas and words. Below are some of the roles typically filled by the publishing team.Harold Underdown, "What a Publisher Does: Key Roles," Underdown, (accessed August 16, 2017).

  • Project management. The managing editor tracks assigned tasks for all staff, including the author.
  • Book outline and layout. Publishers typically require a book outline from the author. However, a developmental editor will review it to ensure that all necessary elements are included and properly organized.
  • Design (textbook cover, font, and layout) and art direction (illustrations, graphics, tables, and figures)
  • Copy editing and proofreading
  • Marketing, promotion, and distribution

Find help

As you list how and who will pay for your textbook (see Who Pays For This), include your support — or publishing — team. At your home institution, look for support from:

Outside of your post-secondary institution, look to:

As the OER movement advances, several groups have come forward to support the efforts of open textbook authors and self-publishers. Below are some to consider.




Project Charter and Timeline

The cycle of project management: Plan, Do, Check, Act, and Plan again

Project manage your open textbook

Writing and publishing an open textbook will take longer than you think. Plan for thinking time. Be prepared to incorporate new ideas as you conduct your research. Be ready to cut material that doesn’t work. Our team began each textbook project with a well-thought-out plan and timeline. Early meetings with the author included  the communication plan, instructions on what each stage would entail, deadlines for each chapter, how and when the copy editors would contribute, and all phases that led to the release of the finished product.

We have created templates to help you plan the many details of producing a textbook:

Timeline tasks

There are many steps to producing a textbook, and each of those steps involve multiple responsibilities. As you record these on your timeline, calculate how long each will take — and then add some additional time as a buffer. (See Appendix 5 for checklists that match the chapters and chapter sections in this guide.)

  1. Research. Track all references carefully as would be done for any academic work. If you are using openly licensed text, images, or other resources, place close attention to the legal requirements for the licence. (See Research.)
  2. Gather or create resources. Resources may include photos, illustrations, graphs, tables, figures, videos, audio files, or spreadsheets. Remember, if you’re using someone else’s work, it must be openly licensed or in the public domain. If a resource is copyrighted and all rights are reserved, you may provide a link to it. However, linking should only be used as a last resort when an openly licensed resource cannot be located. (See Resources: Only the Open.)
  3. Write the book outline. This includes chapters, chapter sections, front and back matter, learning objectives, exercises, key terms and takeaways, and the glossary. Outline how chapters and chapter sections will be laid out. (See Textbook Outline.)
  4. Find supplemental resources. Not all textbook authors or publishers create ancillary resources, such as test banks, for their books. However, many instructors and students find them helpful, and textbooks with ancillary resources are often highly adopted. Determine what your textbook will need in order to be most effective.
  5. Plan each chapter. During the book-outline phase, determine the structure for each chapter in addition to the research and resources required to write it. Record these in your timeline beside the designated author. Use this information to calculate how long each chapter will take to complete. Remember to build in extra time for the beginning phase of the project, as this is when you and your team are learning to work together and with the textbook, and for any unanticipated delays. While working with many authors is a good way to incorporate expertise and multiple viewpoints, it will take extra time as you or your project manager communicate with the team and manage their work. (See Textbook Outline, Contributing Authors, and Identify Support.)
  6. Peer review. Schedule time for the peer review of your textbook by subject-matter experts. (See Peer Review.)
  7. Fix as you go. As you go, expect to be regularly reviewing the style and format as well as auditing external images and resources to ensure all are openly licensed or in the public domain. (See Fix as You Go.)
  8. Copy edit. Have the book copy edited. (See How to Copy Edit.)
  9. Proofread. Have the book proofread. (See How to Proofread.)
  10. Prepare for publication. Conduct a final check of your book and set up print-on-demand copies. (See The Final Check and Print-on-Demand Copies.)
  11. Promote. Launch and communicate about your new book. (See Communications.)

And as you build in extra time to each phase of your timeline, remember Hofstadter’s Law…

It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.

–Douglas Hofstadter in Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid."Hofstadter's Law," Wikipedia, (accessed January 5, 2018).




Project Management by TheDigitalArtist has been designated to the public domain (CC0).


Technology: Accounts and Training

If you decide to use an authoring platform, such as Pressbooks or Scalar [New Tab], to create your textbook, you must also ensure that all participants have accounts to access the platform and the training to use it. While this latter item will require additional effort, it is worth the time in order to avoid confusion and mistakes during production.

This chapter uses Pressbooks as an example of an authoring platform.


BCcampus Pressbooks home page

Determine access

Begin by determining who should have access. If you have multiple authors, it’s often best to restrict access to the book in Pressbooks to one or two “gatekeepers” to maintain the textbook’s formatting, style, and layout. One of the gatekeepers might be the individual responsible for reviewing and fixing the textbook as they will be very familiar with the book’s flow. Others who will need platform access are the copy editor and proofreader. (See Fix as You Go, How to Copy Edit, and How to Proofread.)

If you wish others to view the textbook, but do not want them to have editing or administrative privileges, “view only” rights can be granted or a generic account can be created for all who require in-progress viewing access.

The BCcampus Open Education Pressbooks Guide [New Tab] contains information specific to Pressbooks. This guide will explain how to set up a Pressbooks account and how to add an author, editor, or other user to your textbook. (See Setting up an Account: Where to Begin [New Tab] and Adding an Author or Editor to a Book [New Tab].)

Platform set-up, training, support

Once you have established the required accounts for Pressbooks, or other authoring platform, then it’s time to create the book shell. Information on setting up a book, importing a Pressbooks or WordPress file, and importing a Word document are all covered in the BCcampus Open Education Pressbooks Guide [New Tab]. However, attending a Pressbooks Training Webinar [New Tab] (available to faculty and staff in British Columbia) or listening to a recorded session [New Tab] or viewing the PowerPoint slides [New Tab] (available to everyone) can help. You may also consider hiring an expert to offer a training session to your support team.

Lastly, identify who will provide technical support. Many platforms and systems have very good support resources available; however, it’s always nice to have a friendly, knowledgeable individual to call on. The helpdesk or teaching-and-learning centre at your university or college is a good place to start.

Other technology

In addition to the system you’ll be using to house and create your textbook, consider all other technologies that will be needed. These might include:


BCcampus Pressbooks website (screenshot) is used under a CC BY 4.0 International Licence.




Plan Your Book


Five Rules of Textbook Development

The below list provides five rules that help guide the development of a good textbook."Wikibooks:Textbooks considerations," Wikibooks, (accessed January 24, 2018).

1. Rule of frameworks

Memory and understanding are promoted by the use of a structure that mimics the structures we all use within our minds to store information. Before we can use or master a subject, we have to have a mental road map that allows us to navigate within and through the subject domain. The text can best aid understanding by making this framework visible early on within each section or topic. The extent to which the student understands that they are using a framework, and knows what that framework is, is important as they internalize and make use of the material presented.

2. Rule of meaningful names

Everything we know is tagged with an index or a title. These indices are critical to the ability to recall or retrieve the things we know and remember. Each concept, process, technique or fact presented should aid the student to assign a meaningful name for it in their own mental organization of the material. To be most useful, these names shouldn’t have to be relearned at higher levels of study. The names assigned by the text should be useful in that they support some future activities: communication with other practitioners, reference within the text to earlier mastered material, and conformity to the framework used for the subject. Each unique element of the subject domain should have a unique name, and each name should be used for only one element.

3. Rule of manageable numbers

When we learn from an outline, an illustration, or an example, most of us are limited in our ability to absorb new material. As we become familiar with part of a subject domain this number expands, but for new material four to six new elements is a reasonable limit. If a chapter outline contains twelve items, the student will have forgotten the outline before getting to the last item. When a text fails to support this rule, it requires even a diligent student to needlessly repeat material.

4. Rule of hierarchy

Our mental frameworks are hierarchical. Learning is aided by using the student’s ability to couple or link new material with that already mastered. When presenting new domains for hierarchical understanding, the rules for meaningful names and manageable numbers have increased importance and more limited application. A maximum of three levels of hierarchy should be presented at one time. The root should be already mastered, the current element under consideration clearly examined, and lower levels outlined only to the extent that they help the student understand the scope or importance of the current element. This area is supplemented by two more rules within this rule: those of Connectivity and Cohesion. Connectivity requires consideration of what the student likely knows at this point. The more already mastered elements that one can connect with a new element, the easier it is to retain. Cohesion requires that the characteristics of new elements as they are presented be tightly coupled.

5. Rule of repetition

Most people learn by repetition, and only a few with native genius can achieve mastery without it. There is a pattern of repetition that aids in promoting the elements of a subject from short-term to long-term memory. Implementations of this rule may mean that frameworks and important hierarchies are repeated as many as five or six times, while frequently used elements are repeated three or four times, and elements of lesser utility may not be repeated at all. The first repetition should normally occur within a day of first presentation, followed by a gradually decreasing frequency. Exercises and review sections are ideally contributing to a designed repetition pattern.

Graphics demonstrating the five rules of textbook development. Long description available

5 Rules of Textbook Development [Long Description]


The content in this chapter comes from Wikibooks:Textbook considerations and is used under a CC BY-SA 3.0 Licence.

Long Descriptions

5 Rules of Textbook Development long description:

  1. The rule of frameworks means maintain a consistent structure. The text can best aid understanding by making this framework visible early on.
  2. The rule of meaningful names means create and use consistent titles and terminologies. The names are critical to the ability to recall or retrieve the things we know and remember.
  3. The rule of manageable numbers means limit the amount of new information introduced at one time.
  4. Rule of hierarchy means new knowledge builds on learned knowledge. The student needs to understand the foundational knowledge before being introduced to a new concept. When new concepts are introduced the should be explicitly connected to the foundational material.
  5. The rule of repetition means repeat important concepts. There is a pattern of repetition that aids in promoting the elements of a subject from short-term to long-term memory.

[Return to 5 rules of textbook development image]


Open Textbook Formats

You will notice that open textbooks are available in a number of different technical formats, some of which may not be familiar to you. The reason for this is because research into student preferences around textbook formats shows that students want flexibility and options. Some students, prefer physical textbooks, some want their textbook delivered to their favourite eReader device, and others prefer the familiarity of a PDF or a website.Clint Lalonde, "Open Textbook Formats Explained," BCcampus OpenEd, August 30, 2013, (accessed January 24, 2018).

Here is a brief guide to the different types of document formats that open textbooks are most often available in.


EPUB is a standard format for ebooks. Students will need an eReader to use EPUB files. eReaders are available as stand-alone devices (such as a Nook or Kobo reader) and as software packages that students can install on their PC, Mac, tablet, or mobile phone.

There are a number of eReaders available for free, and many have features such as cloud syncing, which allows users to read their book on their tablet, PC, and phone and keep the book in sync. Many also offer annotation and highlighting capabilities.

EPUB is superior to PDF in that the text in EPUB files can shift to fit the size of the device being used to read the book, giving the user a smooth side-to-side reading experience. eReaders also often provide options to resize the text, change the font, or change the colour of the text.

Those who have a Nook, Kobo, or other dedicated eReading device or have downloaded and installed eReader software on their tablet, PC, or mobile device will want to use an EPUB file. Note that Kindle does not support EPUB. Instead Kindle users will want to use the MOBI format (see below).

eReader Software and Devices Compatible with EPUB
Software Supported Platforms eReader Device Available Registration Open Source
Adobe Digital Editions [New Tab] PC, Mac, Android, iOS No No No
Kobo [New Tab] PC, Mac, Android, iOS Yes Yes No
Nook [New Tab] PC, Mac, Android, iOS Yes Yes No
Google Play Books [New Tab] Android No Yes – Google No
iBooks [New Tab] iOS No Yes No
Calibre [New Tab] PC, Mac, Android, iOS No No Yes

These are just a few of the many EPUB readers available. Wikipedia has an extensive comparison list of eReaders [New Tab].


Students should choose the MOBI format if they have an Amazon Kindle or use the Amazon Kindle software, which anyone can download. Kindle apps and software [New Tab] are available for download on Mac, PC, Android, BlackBerry, Windows OS, and iOS.


An HTML website is a good format to use to distribute your textbook to students as it is a universal format that does not require any additional software beyond a web browser. HTML is also a good format to distribute your textbook in if you want others to be able to edit or customize your book. If possible, you can create a zip file of your HTML documents and make those available for other instructors to download, edit and host on their own websites.


PDF is a common file format that requires a PDF reader. Free PDF readers include Adobe Reader [New Tab], Foxit [New Tab], and Nitro [New Tab]. PDF is a good format to make available to students because it is common and most students will know how to work with a PDF document. However, PDFs are difficult to edit, so if you plan to openly license your textbook, you should also make your source files available so other instructors can edit the book.


Some open textbooks are available as Word/OpenOffice documents. These file formats will be have the .docx or .odt file extensions. You will need Microsoft Word [New Tab] or OpenOffice [New Tab] to view these files. Word/OpenOffice documents can be used to distribute a textbook to students as it is a common file format. However, it is more common that you would convert the Word/OpenOffice document to a PDF, EPUB or HTML file for distribution to students and provide Word/OpenOffice as a source file for others who may want to edit or adapt the textbook.


LaTeX is a document format often used when complex scientific or mathematical equations and notations are required. LaTeX [New Tab] requires special software [New Tab] to read and edit. These files are not recommended for students and are primarily provided as source files for instructors who wish to modify or customize a textbook.


Information and much of the text used in this chapter are based on the blog “Open Textbook Formats Explained” by Clint Lalonde and is used under a CC BY 4.0 Licence.


Accessibility, Diversity, and Inclusion

One of the basic premises of open education is access. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) believes:

…that universal access to high quality education is key to the building of peace, sustainable social and economic development, and intercultural dialogue. Open Educational Resources (OER) provide a strategic opportunity to improve the quality of education as well as facilitate policy dialogue, knowledge sharing and capacity building."Open Educational Resources," UNESCO, (accessed September 20, 2017).

Access in this context refers to the ability for students, instructors, and others to obtain access to education. Releasing textbooks and other educational resources with open-copyright licences is a big step toward removing barriers, as it makes these materials free of cost and free to use, distribute, and change. But there is more that goes into accessing a resource than it just being free and online.

For a textbook to be truly accessible, people of all abilities need to be able to access the content. This means designing a textbook that accommodates people with diverse learning styles and ensuring the content can be accessed by all, regardless of disability. It also means creating materials that include diverse viewpoints and voices. As you plan your textbook, contemplate how to design it so it is accessible, diverse, and inclusive.

Read what your colleagues are saying about Equity, Diversity, Inclusion & Open Education [New Tab].


As an open textbook author and publisher, it’s important to consider the social-justice side of open education. Listed below are some of the barriers students face during their education, as well as some solutions and examples.

Reducing Barriers to Access
Barrier Type Challenge Solution Example
Physical Impairments Low vision or blindness Use alternative text (alt-text) to describe an image’s content or function that can be read by a screen reader. All images in Introduction to Psychology – 1st Canadian Edition [New Tab] have alt-text.
Hearing impairment or deafness Add transcripts and captions to all audio content. The instructional videos [YouTube – New Tab] created for Concepts of Biology-1st Canadian Edition [New Tab] are all captioned.
Motor-skill impairment, immobility Provide file formats that can be uploaded into a variety of mobile devices. Introduction to Tourism and Hospitality in BC [New Tab] has a number of file types available.
Learning Disabilities Difficulty absorbing information via reading or difficulty concentrating (ADHD) Add audio clips to printed text that student can listen to while reading along. Common Core Trade series [New tab] (23 books) has audio files that accompany the text content.
Language Comprehension Low literacy: adult basic education (ABE) student or English language learners (ELL) Provide a print copy with increased font size or provide formats that allow the font size to be adjusted. The PDF of BC Reads: Adult Literacy Fundamental English – Reader 1 uses large text.
Limitations of Time and Place Working, parenting, or live far from a college or university Provide a version of the textbook that can be accessed from anywhere online. All books in the B.C. Open Textbook Collection [New Tab] can be accessed online.
Unreliable or no access to the Internet Set up a service that can supply a print-on-demand copy. See the print-on-demand option for Principles of Social Psychology – 1st International Edition [New Tab].

Refer to the BCcampus Open Education Accessibility Toolkit [New Tab] for information on how to make sure you create an accessible textbook. (A French version [New Tab] is also available.) There are a number of accessible textbooks in the B.C. Open Textbook Collection [New Tab]. They are flaged as “Accessible” when they meet all requirements on the Accessibility Checklist [New Tab].


The National Center on Universal Design for Learning [New Tab] also offers guidelines on how best to design educational resources so that students with a variety of learner styles benefit. You can also watch this video produced by the University of British Columbia: Open Dialogues: How to make open content accessible [YouTube – New Tab].

Diversity and inclusion

In the context of writing an open textbook, diversity means including a wide range of perspectives in your textbook. This can help ensure that more readers identify with and relate to the material. Some benefits are:

Question 10 on the BCcampus Open Education Review Rubric [Word file] addresses the issue of diversity and inclusion. (See Textbook Reviews.)


Whether intentional or not, ethnocentrism — “a tendency to view alien groups or cultures from the perspective of one’s own”"ethnocentrism,", (accessed December 11, 2017). — can creep into the content and presentation of a textbook, and it is something all authors should be aware of. This doesn’t mean you must write a book that fits every culture and perspective, only that you are respectful.

Once your book is published, if instructors from another country and culture want to use your work, they may customize it for their classroom needs. The changes made might include:

  • Translating the book into a different language
  • Adjusting the content to meet the local cultural, regional, and geographical needs
  • Revising the material for a different learning environment

For more information see Reasons to Adapt an Open Textbook [New Tab] in the BCcampus Open Education Adaptation Guide.


Textbook Outline

Before you begin writing, create an outline that details the topics to be covered in your textbook and how they will be organized in a table of contents. Consider the type of students who will use your textbook and the course level and program for which the textbook is intended. Taking time to consider the audience and classroom will direct the tone and complexity of your writing. As such, it should be scheduled in your project timeline. This vital step will save time and money, reduce mistakes, and hopefully result in a more useful, engaging textbook. (See Project Timeline.)

Details and decisions

An outline is most useful when it includes all the details needed to build and arrange your book. Recruiting a copy editor at this early stage, someone who can ensure that all elements and layout are covered, will save time later in the project. The copy editor can also assist you with selecting a style guide and setting up a style sheet, which they will reference during the copy-editing and proofreading phases. (See How to Copy Edit and Create a Style Sheet.)

Front matter

The front matter is the introductory section of your textbook and the first thing readers see. If you’re using an authoring platform such as Pressbooks, the system will set up some of these sections for you, including a copyright page and a table of contents. The following table lists the items typically included in the front matter and the order in which they appear. While most open textbooks will have many of these elements, very few will have all of them. Only include the sections relevant to your textbook.

Front Matter"Book Design," Wikipedia, (accessed November 15, 2017).
Item Responsibility Purpose
Half title Publisher Includes just the title of the book on the recto (front side of the page) with a blank verso (back side of the page).
Title page Publisher Book title is repeated along with subtitle (if any), author(s) and/or editor(s), and illustrator (if any).
Copyright page Publisher On the verso of title page, the following may be included:
  • open-licence information (type, definition, where to obtain free copy of book)
  • if an adaptation, the changes made
  • attribution for cover image
  • publisher’s name and address
  • copyright notice
  • ISBN
  • date of publication and publishing history
  • printing information
Disclaimers Publisher These can appear on the colophon or separately after the title page.
Dedication Author The person or people for whom the author has written or dedicated the book.
Table of contents Publisher A list of all parts and chapters (or chapters and chapter sections) together with their respective page numbers. Front-matter items that appear after the table of contents are also included.
About this book Publisher This page is used to define open textbooks and other OER, and any other unique features for this type of book. Funding provided by the author’s institution, a public body, or philanthropic organization can also be noted.
List of illustrations and/or tables Publisher This summary is useful for the reader.
Foreword Expert (not the author) The forward is typically written by an outside expert in the field at the request of the primary author. The foreword author’s name, place, and date are included at the end of the statement.
Preface Author The author uses the preface to explain why and how they came to write the book. They might also describe their expertise in the subject area.
Acknowledgements Author This is a list of individuals whom the author acknowledges for their contributions and assistance.
Introduction Author This introduction describes the book contents as a whole. The book’s theme, layout, special features, and how instructors can make the best use of it, can also be included. The author may also create a “How to Use This Book” section if more fitting.
List of abbreviations Publisher This list of abbreviations and their meanings is useful for the reader.
Accessibility statement Publisher If the book has been written and designed to be accessible, provide a description of how this was done and various options people have when accessing the book. Indicate the standards that have been followed, and provide contact information for where people can report any accessibility issues. (See Accessibility and Inclusion.)
Publisher’s, translator’s, or editor’s notes  Publisher This information provides background on various aspects of the book’s creation depending on who writes the notes.


As you shape the content of your textbook’s main body, ask these questions:

Next, consider the layout, style, and length for each chapter and chapter section. Decide what elements to incorporate such as:

Estimate the amount of time needed to create each item for each chapter or chapter section — and then double it. The majority of self-publishing authors underestimate the amount of time required to write and produce or collect resources and multimedia. If tasks are completed ahead of schedule, bank this extra time for other delays later on. Ask your copy editor to include the above items on their review list.

Back matter

Items at the end, or as part of the back matter, of a textbook are typically supplements to the main text.

Back Matter"Book Design," Wikipedia, (accessed November 15, 2017), "Book Elements: A Literary Anatomy Lesson,", October 12, 2016, (accessed January 16, 2018), and "What is Back Matter," Scribendi, (accessed January 16, 2018).
Item Responsibility Purpose
Appendix / appendices Author An appendix provides supplementary material to information found in the main work. In cases where there are more than one appendices, they can be numbered and described for easier reference.
Glossary Author The glossary is a list of keywords or terms used within the book and their definitions. These terms are listed alphabetically. Many authors will highlight key terms when first defined in-text using bold or italics.
Reference list Author A reference list notes all resources cited within a textbook and lists them alphabetically by the author’s last name.
Bibliography Author Typically, a bibliography refers to all works used as references within a textbook, both cited and read as background in preparation for writing. Note: A bibliography is not used by all style guides.
Suggested readings Author A list of additional books, articles, and other readings can be included here for students. Some authors choose to add suggested-reading lists, targeted at the subject covered in a chapter, at the end of each chapter.
Resources Author A list of helpful resources, such as videos and tools, can be added here.
About the author / Bio Publisher This page has author’s biography followed by the biographies of any contributing authors listed in alphabetical order. This description is professional in nature and describes the author’s expertise, experience, and training in the textbook’s subject matter. A photo can be included.
Call for reviews Author This page can be included if the author is posting the textbook outside of a collection that provides for book reviews. (See Textbook Reviews.)
Index Publisher This list of keywords and terms is laid out alphabetically and includes the page numbers of where they can be found. Indexes are often left out of open textbooks, especially those available online, because keywords and terms can be easily found using the search field. In addition, because open textbooks are often available in a number of formats, it’s difficult to provide an index that will be useful in all formats.
Versioning history Publisher As open textbooks are often digital and available online, there is a certain expectation that minor corrections and updates be made as necessary, even after the book is live and completed. BCcampus has dedicated “Versioning History” pages to the back matter of its books for this purpose. This page provides information about how to report an error in the textbook, as well as a record of any updates and changes made in the textbook and the date of those changes.


Front Matter and Back Matter tables: Some of this information was taken from Book design on Wikipedia and is used under a CC BY-SA 3.0 Licence.


Create a Style Sheet

A style guide should be used when writing an open textbook to ensure that style and formatting is consistent throughout the work. (See Appendix 2: Style Guide.) Style guides usually include citation style as well, i.e. how cited or referenced material should be treated both in the text (in-text) and within the reference list. Commonly used style guides include,

In addition to selecting a style guide, it is advised that a style sheet be created and updated throughout the writing process. A style sheet is a record of the styling and formatting exceptions for your textbook, such as spelling choices, selection and placement of learning objects, and differences in punctuation, layout, and style from the style guide. Frequently used style elements can also be noted on the style sheet for easy reference, especially during the copy editing and proofreading stages.

How to set up and use a style sheet

Here is a template you can use to set up the style sheet for your open textbook:

  1. Download the above style-sheet template and fill out as much information as possible, including book title, author, copy editor, and proofreader.
  2. Add or remove items as they pertain to your book. These might include:
    1. exercises (and how to format them)
    2. back matter and/or appendix information and how to label each
    3. key terms: how and when to highlight them in the text body and if they should be summarized in an end-of-book glossary
  3. In addition to different or additional styles and formatting, you can list:
    1. styling issues included in the style guide, but repeated in the style sheet for easy reference
    2. the correct usage of grammar and spellings that are often inaccurate
  4. Change and update the style sheet throughout textbook production. Update the style sheet each time you make changes or add to it and share it with your team.
  5. When the book is finished, date the style sheet and mark it as the “final copy.” This reference document can be shared as part of your textbook when it’s published.


Write … and More



An open book

Conducting thorough research first saves time when writing an open textbook

The writing portion of a textbook begins with research. In some cases, collecting and organizing the research can take longer than the actual writing. However, it’s time well spent by both you and your contributing authors, especially if it’s done well and thoroughly.

Like any scholarly work, it’s important to choose appropriate sources when conducting research for a textbook and then cite or attribute them correctly (see Citation vs. Attribution). The UBC Library Research Help [New Tab] page offers valuable step-by-step advice. For example, in a section entitled “Evaluating Information Sources,” their response to the opening question of “Why Evaluate?” is:

You will need to evaluate each resource you use for research, whether it is an online or print journal article, a website, a book, a newspaper article, or other source that you want to cite. Use the questions in this guide to analyze materials and to assess how appropriate they will be for your research. Keep in mind that many publications have a particular bias or agenda, which may not be obvious at first glance."Evaluating Information Sources," UBC Library, (accessed February 2, 2018).

To help organize collected items, consider using a source management tool like Zotero [New Tab] (free and open source) or Mendeley [New Tab] (free and run by publisher Elsevier).

In addition, the following steps may help as you gather research and resources.

  1. Write down the knowledge you have accumulated on your textbook’s topic. If you’re an instructor, it’s likely this information is part of your course package or curriculum notes, or something you talk about in the classroom. However, unless this information is common knowledge or based on original research, you must cite it."What is Common Knowledge?" Academic Integrity at MIT: A Handbook for Students, (accessed August 8, 2017).
  2. Look at other open textbooks on the same or similar topics to see if they contain sections/chapters that can be adapted or used in your book. (See the Open Textbook/OER Directory [New Tab].)
  3. Before you expand your search, read these three chapters: Resources: Only the OpenResources: Search and FindResources: Captions and Attributions
  4. If possible, follow resources — be they text or images — back to the original source so you’re confident that they are truly openly licensed.
  5. Keep concise records of all sources you reference and cite in your textbook, including journal articles (online and off), newspapers, books, government documents, reports from a private organization, conference proceedings, dissertation, online lecture notes, email, blogs, wiki, websites, and video podcasts.
  6. Note the date when accessing an online resource and its URL (Uniform Resource Locator) or web address.
  7. Record all the information you will need to cite a resource properly. Purdue University’s Online Lab (OWL) [New Tab] provides very good research and citation resources for writers.
  8. If your research requires conducting interviews, record them. Consider asking the subjects you interview to sign an interview consent and release form (see word file below). Taking these steps clarify for the interview subject the purpose of the interview and how and where their words will be used.

Here is a template of an interview consent and release form that you can use if you will be conducting interviews:


Knowledge by Dariusz Sankowski has been designated to the public domain (CC0).


Citation vs. Attribution

Outside ideas and information provide evidence that build an argument or lay the foundation for a textbook’s topic. A strong textbook will appropriately reference these sources, showing the student reader where information and ideas that do not originate with the open textbook author come from. This should be done for both restricted and open works through citations and attribution statements. Use this as an opportunity to show students by example how a scholar respects and shares information from other sources.

Even though they share characteristics, citations and attributions play different roles and appear in different places. This chapter defines citation and attribution, explains how and when they should be used in an open textbook, and discusses their purposes, similarities, and differences.


A citation allows authors to provide the source of any quotations, ideas, and information that they include in their own work based on the copyrighted works of other authors. The Oxford Living Dictionary defines it as a “…quotation from or reference to a book, paper, or author, especially in a scholarly work.”"citation," Oxford Dictionary, (accessed February 6, 2018).

Citation is a common and long-time practice among scholars used to indicate where a resource is from and who the author is. Unlike an attribution, citation is typically used for copyrighted works with restricted rights or “all rights reserved.” In other words, it is used in works for which broad permissions have not been granted.

As a scholar and potential author of an open textbook, we assume that you are familiar with the rules around citation. However, the article Warning: When You Must Cite [New Tab] from the Yale Center for Teaching and Learning provides some guidance about how, what, and the amount of a work that can be cited. (See Textbook Citation.)


Attribution is the cornerstone condition when using a resource or text released with an open-copyright licence. This legal requirement states that users must attribute — give credit — to the creator of the work. (See Copyright and Open Licences.)

In a CC BY licence, the “CC” stands for “Creative Commons” and the “BY” stands for “Attribution,” or who the work is “by.”

A CC BY licence is a creative commons attribution licence.

BY = attribution

An attribution statement is used to provide credit to the original creator; its purpose is similar to a citation. Best practice says that the statement should include the title of the work, name of the creator, and licence type (with links to each). When using text from another open educational resource, be clear in your attribution statement what section of your textbook contains this information.

A useful tool to help create attribution statements is the OPEN Attribution Builder [New Tab] by Open Washington. (See also Resources: Captions and Attributions.)


Citation and attribution serve different purposes.

The following table summarizes the differences between citations and attributions.

Citation vs. Attribution
Citation Attribution
Academic and legal purposes (plagiarism and copyright infringement). Legal purposes (e.g., rules of Creative Commons licences).
The rights of the copy (meaning copyright) are NOT shared with the general public by the copyright holder. Copyright IS shared with the general public by the copyright holder by marking the work with an open-copyright licence.
Protects an author who wants to refer to a restricted work by another author. Author of an open work has given advanced permissions to use their work.
Used to quote or paraphrase a limited portion of a restricted work. Used to quote (or paraphrase) all or a portion of an openly licensed work.
Can paraphrase, but cannot change work without permission. Author has give advanced permission to change work.
Many citation styles are available: APA, Chicago, MLA. Attribution statement styles are still emerging, but there are some defined best practices.
A reference list of cited resources are typically placed at the end of the book. Attribution statements are found on the same page as the resource.


There are also similarities between a citation and attribution.

Tables: A special case

When BCcampus Open Education began publishing open textbooks, we discovered that there were few openly licenced tables that our authors could use. So, with the help of our copy editors, we developed a way to present information in a table format without violating copyright.

We learned during our research that a table is comprised of two parts:

  1. The style or layout of the table, which displays the information. These elements can include the size, placement, and colour of the cells; the style of fonts; and the wording and placement of column and row headers.
  2. The data or information contained within the table
Main Label Column One Column Two Column Three
Row One
Row Two
Row Three
Main Label Column One Column Two Column Three
Row One Information 1 Information 2 Information 3
Row Two Information 4 Information 5 Information 6
Row Three Information 7 Information 8 Information 9

Our solution was to instruct authors to create an original table, and then cite the data added to that table. As you can see in the below example from Introduction to Tourism and Hospitality in B.C., we provided the source for the data in the last row in the table. For clarity, we labelled this in-text citation as “Data source.”Morgan Westcott, "Chapter 2: Transportation," in Introduction to Tourism and Hospitality in B.C., ed. Morgan Westcott, (Victoria, B.C.: BCcampus, 2015). Alternatively, you could add the source information to a footnote.

A sample table containing data from an outside source. The citation is placed in the last table row

Table 2.1 from Introduction to Tourism and Hospitality in B.C.

The original table, created by the author or a designer working with the author, is an original creation. Because of this, no attribution statement is required.  The table design is copyrighted by the author (or designer). However, as the data comes from an external source, it requires a citation. This same process can be applied to charts and graphs.

Citation-Attribution Fusion

The libraries at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops have come up with a clever solution to the citation versus attribution dilemma. In the Crediting Images found Online [New Page] section of their APA Citation Style web page, they suggest modifying the APA citation style so it incorporates open licence or public domain information for the image’s caption and reference. Here is an example.

The image and its caption would appear like this:

two marmots

Figure 2. Yellow-bellied Marmot Pups – Kamloops, BC., by A. Vern, 2007,,_BC..jpg. Used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License:


The corresponding reference would be laid out like this:

Vernon, A. (Photographer). (2007). Yellow-bellied marmot pups – Kamloops, BC [digital image]. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons website:,_BC..jpg


  1. The concepts and portions of this text have been taken from Quill West’s presentation for Pierce College called Citations vs. Attributions. And how to deal with them in your work and is used under a CC BY 4.0 Licence.
  2. Table 2.1 by Morgan Westcott is used under a CC BY 4.0 Licence.


The Writing

Writing a textbook that is coherent takes discipline, endurance, and determination. Depending on the length and subject matter of your book, you will need to carve out an extended schedule to think and write. The detailed outline and project timeline created at the beginning of a self-publishing endeavour will help guide your writing efforts. (See Textbook Outline and Project Charter and Timeline.)

We have worked with many faculty authors and watched as they attempted to write an open textbook off the side of their desks (and in the evenings and on the weekends). While possible, this approach is not ideal and certainly not fun. We tell authors-to-be that writing a book will be more time consuming and challenging than they can image. To help them prepare, we suggest they:

Secrets of a Writer

I was a published author for fifteen years and practised my craft in a home office surrounded by two young children and household chores begging to be done. To survive and succeed as a writer, I developed the following routine.

  • Get enough sleep, eat a balanced diet, exercise, and take breaks throughout the working day. Writing is tiring and it’s difficult to write when you’re not feeling well.
  • Figure out the times of day when you write efficiently and do your best work. Take advantage of these times to get writing done.
  • Restrict writing time to a specific time of the day. This will force efficiency and prevent endless writing on and off throughout the day, which can be exhausting.
  • Find a quiet place to work.
  • When you write, just write. Don’t give into distractions such as answering the phone, texting, emailing, or doing laundry.
  • Don’t worry about perfecting or revising your work, particularly during the first draft. Allow the words to flow. Editing will come later.
  • Allow a realistic amount of time to write the book, a chapter, or a section assigned that day, week, or month. Don’t underestimate how long it takes to write a textbook.
  • Don’t give into writer’s block. When creativity is evasive, work on something mechanical such as:
    • pasting blocks of research into the book (with citations and attributions)
    • writing image captions
    • adding resources such as suggested reading lists, exercises, and key takeaways

Writing a book will never feel finished. There is always something that can be changed, improved, or added. At some point you will need to stop and tell yourself, “good enough.”

Mind control

Because writing is a creative process, it can feel incessant, occupying your thoughts night and day. Calm your frenzied mind by enlisting these practices.

  1. Record stray ideas that come to mind when not writing to come back to later.
  2. Keep a notebook by your bedside for middle-of-the-night thoughts that wake you up.
  3. Brainstorm by recording as many ideas as possible on a specific topic or problem.
  4. Begin each writing session with ten minutes of unedited scribbling to clear your mind and jump-start creativity.
  5. Experiment with paper and pen. Some find this method assists with processing ideas.
  6. Allow ideas to sit for a day before reviewing them for value.




Resources: Only the Open

If you are writing a new textbook (or other open educational resource) or adapting an existing one, it’s important that all of the content meets open-copyright licence requirements or is in the public domain. (See Licences and Tools and Copyright and Open Licences.)

Is your material really open?

As the author and publisher of an open textbook, you have agreed to release your work with an open-copyright licence. However, open educational resources often include materials from external sources. (See Resources: Search and Find.) And it is the licensing conditions of these items that must be carefully examined before incorporating them in your open textbook. Follow the below steps to ensure that all material you find on for your book is open. Don’t assume that any item posted on the internet is free or free to use.

  1. Look for the copyright notice. This information lists the copyright symbol (the letter C inside a circle) or the word “copyright” followed by the year in which the work was created, and therefore copyrighted, and the name of the copyright owner.
    1. NOTE: A copyright notice does not automatically mean that a resource is not permitted in an open textbook. In fact, most open resources are copyrighted.
    2. Here is an example: Copyright 2018 Lauri Aesoph.
  2. Look for a statement of rights. This statement outlines the conditions of use or permissions granted by the copyright holder — for example using a Creative Commons licence —  and is part of the “copyright notice”.
    1. If not included, it can be assumed that the copyright holder grants no permissions and that “all rights are reserved”.
    2. Here is an example of a copyright notice that includes a statement of rights for an openly licensed resource: Copyright 2018 Lauri Aesoph. This guide is released under a Creative Common Attribution 4.0 International Licence.
  3. If the copyright notice, and statement of rights aren’t immediately apparent on a website, look for this information on web pages marked as “Terms and Conditions”, “Permissions”, etc.
  4. If you can’t find a copyright notice, statement of rights, or licensing information, don’t use the material.
  5. Even if a website is labelled as open, unless the material is clearly marked with an open-copyright licence or uses a public-domain marking, don’t use it.
  6. If a resource is in the public domain because its copyright has expired or a work has been designated to the public domain, look for language or a logo that makes this clear. (See Appendix 1: Licences and Tools.)
  7. Don’t assume that an old image or text found online is in the public domain. It might be a secondary source or someone’s interpretation of the original item. For example, a photograph of a centuries-old painting may be copyrighted and have restricted rights.
  8. Don’t use a resource for which one-time permission has been granted by the creator. (Creative Commons licences permit unlimited usage). Instead, if you find material that you want to use but hasn’t been released with an open-copyright licence, contact the creator and ask if they will consider doing so.
  9. Keep track of all external resources added to your open textbook including where and when they were found.




Resources: Search and Find

A hand holding a magnifying glass.

Be creative when searching for resources to include in an open textbook

There are literally millions of educational resources — photos, illustrations, videos and film, audio clips, courses, articles, research — that have been released with an open-copyright licence or are in the public domain and available to open textbook authors and publishers. Below are online libraries, projects, directories, repositories, and websites where you will find both individual objects and full resources. If you have difficulty finding what you need, be creative and look for the desired item — photo, graphic, video — in an article from one of the many open academic journals or an open textbook. Another trick is to use several synonyms when searching for a hard-to-find resource.

Many sources contain items that range in user permissions from no copyright (e.g., in the public domain) to CC licences to all rights reserved. Make it your practice to check every resource’s licence or permissions before adding it to your open textbook. User rights have been noted beside some of the below sources.

It is recommended avoiding CC licences that include the -ND (NoDerivatives) restriction as content under this licence cannot be changed. See CC BY-ND 4.0 [New Tab] for more information.

Chapter table of contents

Canadian collections

Mixed collections (open and restricted materials)


Libraries, museums, and book collections

Subject-specific collections

Type of resource


Canadian collections

Mixed collections (open and restricted materials)

Creative Commons (CC)




Canadian government websites

Most government of Canada websites and publications [New Tab] are covered by the open government licence. Here is an example of the Statistics Canada data licence

Source: Statistics Canada, name of product, reference date. Reproduced and distributed on an “as is” basis with the permission of Statistics Canada

However, when using a resource from a Canadian government website or publication, always check the Terms of Use, Copyright, or similar page for details.

Often, images and other resources from a Canadian government website stipulates that the reused image or resource not be used for commercial purposes. If this is the case, then add this line to your attribution statement: “This image cannot be used for commercial purposes.”

U.S. government websites

Generally, the information and images found on U.S. government websites [New Tab] are in the public domain. However, when using a resource from a U.S. government website, always check the Terms of Use, Copyright, or similar page for details.

Libraries, museums, and book collections

Also see open academic journals and repositories.

Subject-specific collections

Art, culture, and history


Music and audio

Science and health

Type of resource


See Music and Audio

Courses, lectures, and lessons

Games and interactive simulations

Images: charts, clip art, graphs, icons, photos, symbols, vector images


Open academic journals

Videos and film



Resources: Captions and Attributions

When BCcampus Open Education began working with open textbook authors, we soon recognized that devising a standard method of captioning each non-text item in a book was critical. At the same, we were teaching authors the importance of recording the information needed to create a well-structured attribution statement for each open resource they borrowed. It didn’t take long to realize that we could use — and shape — a caption’s layout to help identify its resource in an attribution statement. In other words, the caption’s label could be part of the attribution statement. This chapter describes suggested formats for captions and attribution statements, and how the two can be used together so that the resources in a textbook are clearly marked and legally attributed.

Chapter Table of Contents




A caption is text that accompanies a figure, table, or other non-text resource within a work such as an open textbook. At BCcampus, we decided that the caption for each item should only contain the resource type label and number, and a description of the resource. If an item requires an attribution statements, it is placed elsewhere — typically in an “Attributions” list at the end of the chapter.

Separating the attribution statement and caption kept the caption clearn and uncluttered. However, it also introduced a problem: how do we connect an item to its attribution statement? First, we determined that each resource type needed to be identified with a label. We selected “Table” for tables, and “Figure” for all images and pictures. That label is combined with a numbering system that incorporates the chapter number the item is found in and the item’s places in that chapter in relation to other items with the same label. For example, if a photograph is the third of four figures in Chapter 5, it would be labelled as “Figure 5.3.” This resource type and number appears in the caption, and it is used to identify the attribution statement.

Note that the sequence number of a resource label is resource specific. For example, if an item is marked as “Table 6.2,” this means it’s the second table in Chapter 6, not the second non-text resource. As such, you can have a Table 6.2 and a Figure 6.2 in the same chapter.

The content of a caption is written by the author to convey the significance of the resource and its relationship to text. Referencing the resource in the text body contributes to this connection. Authors are discouraged from using the resource title (assigned to the item by its creator) as a caption because this label is a key component of the item’s attribution statement. Using the same phrase as both resource title and caption can cause confusion.

See below for caption examples for the most commonly used resources in an open textbook. Refer to your style guide or make a decision about how you want to style the captions in your textbook and include these details on your book’s style sheet. (See Create a Style Sheet.)

Figure captions

a small speckled green fish is shown swimming in the ocean

Figure 4.3 The green discus fish shown in its natural environment.

Format items to note in this example:

Table captions

Table 2.3: Hotel revenue in British Columbia
Hotel Annual Revenue ($ millions)
Motel ABC 23.4
Hotel DEF 54.2
Data source: Johnson, 2013

Format items to note in this example:

Graph and chart captions

Because graphs, charts, and other data-rich resources where the data is cited are often added images, you can choose to label them as “Figures” or as “Charts” or “Graphs.” For example, in the below graph found in Introduction to Sociology, 2nd Canadian Edition, the author has chosen to label it as a figure.

A chart projecting the annual average growth in employment over 10 years in different industries

Figure 18.11 The projected growth of several occupational groups

For information on designing images, charts, graphs, and tables for accessibility, see Images [New Tab], Tables [New Tab], and Colour Contrast [New Tab] in the BCcampus Open Education Accessibility Toolkit.


Before looking at the details of how and where to place attributions or attribution statements, let’s answer a couple of questions that might influence how you proceed.

Who gets attribution for an image?

It is important to understand who to give credit to for an image. Frequently, especially for a work in the public domain, it is not the artist or photographer who created the original work. Instead, you must attribute the individual who created the version of the work that you are using in your book or educational resource. For example, a photograph of a painting is considered a secondary source, or interpretation of the original painting, and you will need to credit the photographer in the attribution statement, not the painter.

Below is a photograph of the famous painting Mona Lisa, by Leonardo da Vinci. In the attribution statement, credit is given to the photographer, not da Vinci. As such, the attribution statement should read: Mona Lisa by Dcoetzee is in the public domain. This also means that just because a work of art may be in the public domain, it does not mean that the reproduction of that work is in the public domain.

a painting of a young woman in a dress and mid-length brown hair. she has a small smile on her face

The Mona Lisa is a painting by Leonardo da Vinci. The photograph of this painting was taken by Dcoetzee.

Should items in the public domain be attributed?

Resources for which copyright has been designated to the public domain by the creator do not require that attribution be given to the creator. However, as a best practice, we encourage still crediting the author or artist for the resources they created. Taking this extra step does many things:

  1. It shows respect provides recognition for the individual who created and freely shared their creation.
  2. It upholds academic integrity.
  3. It ensures consistency in how a textbook is styled.
  4. It leaves no doubt that the resource is open for use and provides future users with links and other information about the resource’s origins.

Attribution statements

This section provides sample attribution statements based on the most common rights and conditions under which open educational resources are released and used. Note that for resources in the public domain, the attribution statement changes depending on how the work ended up in the public domain. Attribution statements for resources that have been designated to the public domain by their creators are labelled as “Pubic domain: designated.” Items in the public domain because their copyright expired are labeled as “Public domain: expired copyright.”

Most of these attribution statement layouts are based on recommendations posted by Creative Commons [New Tab]. Here are the commonly used elements and information to be aware of.

Open-copyright licence, no changes

Open-copyright licence, changes made

Public domain: designated, no changes

Public domain: designated, changes made

It is not required to include a description of a change when using a resource from the public domain. However, you can choose to include this information in your attribution statement.

Public domain: expired copyright, no changes

Public domain: expired copyright, changes made

It is not required to include a description of a change when using a resource from the public domain. However, you can choose to include this information in your attribution statement.

No known copyright restrictions

Government websites and publications

If using images from a government publication or website, see content under the Government heading in the Resources: Search and Find chapter for details about attribution and licences.

Source statement

If available, an optional source statement can be appended to the end of an attribution statement. It notes the type of source from which an open educational resource is curated, such as a museum collection, and is used when this information provides legitimacy to the textbook subject matter.

Source statement example: This image is available from the Toronto Public Library under the reference number JRR 1059.

Full attribution statement with source statement: Toronto Rolling Mills is in the public domain. This image is available from the Toronto Public Library under the reference number JRR 1059.

Attribution-statement tools

Attribution statements for resources can be added manually, as described above. However, there are a couple of browser add-ons [New Tab] that can help you capture the correct information for web-based Creative Commons licensed material. If you work with CC material often, take a look at these tools to make attributing content easier.

Open Attribute

Open Attribute [New Tab] is a browser add-on/plugin for Firefox and Chrome that gathers the CC licence metadata on a web page and creates an attribution statement. This is how it works.

  1. After installing this add-on, a small logo will appear in your address bar (see red arrow) when you go to a website that has CC licensed content on it (and importantly, the correct metadata).

    Open Attribute add-on

  2. Click on the logo to reveal a textbox with the title, source, and licence of the selected website. When the “More Information” button (by the red arrow) is chosen, both basic (in plain text) and RDFa attribution statements (as HTML) are shown to select and use. The “All Data” button displays all attribution information for the chosen website.

    The Open Attribute ad-on can provide both basic and RDFa attributions.

The advantages of this tool are:

The disadvantages are:

OPEN Attribution Builder

This tool was built by the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges and can be found at OPEN Attribution Builder [New Tab].  It is simple to use and provides descriptions of each field through the “?” icon.


OPEN Attribution Builder

The advantages of this tool are:

The disadvantages are:

Commons Machinery

For a suite of plugins for Firefox and OpenOffice tools — many in beta — visit the Swedish-based website, Commons Machinery [New Tab]. Their attribution-statement tools enable the copying and pasting of images that already have the attribution information attached.


Screenshots of Software

If you want to use a screenshot of software for an openly licensed work, as a general rule check the terms of a website, as they may spell out the rules of how to use screenshots of their products. Many companies are okay with using screenshots of their software or products for training. There are many “how to” websites that use screenshots, as there is a financial incentive for companies to have training material created for them by others. (The more people who learn to use their product, the better.)


Follow a company’s guidelines if you want to include screenshots of their software product

If the software is open source [New Tab] or released under a free software licence [New Tab], it is usually fine to use screenshots.

Microsoft spells out how you can use screenshots of their products as follows:

  • You may not use screen shots of Microsoft product boot-up screens, opening screens, “splash screens,” or screens from beta release products or other products that have not been commercially released.
  • You may use other screen shots in advertising, in documentation (including educational brochures), in tutorial books, in videos, or on websites, provided that, in addition to the requirements above, you:
    • Do not alter the screen shot except to resize it.
    • Do not use portions of screen shots.
    • Do not include screen shots in your product user interface.
    • Do not use screen shots that contain third-party content.
    • Do not use screen shots that contain an image of an identifiable individual."Use of Microsoft Copyrighted Content," Microsoft, (accessed February 1, 2018).

Google allows the use of screenshots of their products. For more information, see Google’s Using Product Graphics page [New Tab].

Others, require that you ask permission. For example, see Yahoo’s Permissions page [New Tab].

Bottom line: Check a software’s website for terms of use before using screenshots of its products.


Software by geralt has been designated to the public domain (CC0).


Fix as You Go

A computer and a hand holding a screwdriver

Dedicating one or more people to the role of fixer will result in a higher quality textbook

During production, it’s a good idea to have — in addition to a copy editor — someone who oversees the layout, formatting, and correct treatment of the various elements of your book.

This is your fixer.

At BCcampus, we found a good fixer to be invaluable. Through experience, we learned they should be an individual with a keen eye for detail, have the ability to accurately match the exceptions noted on the style sheet against the textbook, be willing to review each chapter and section of your book repeatedly, and be able to distinguish between errors they should correct as part of their job and problems that require input from the author or project lead.

A fixer can also help add elements to the textbook, such as learning-objective textboxes and attribution statements.

Lastly, you and your fixer will learn as you go. The fixer will be spending a lot of time with the textbook, and because of this, they can offer many helpful suggestions about what’s working, what isn’t, and where the problems are.

Fixer tasks

Before they begin, create a detailed job description for the fixer or fixers so it’s clear what’s expected. Keep a running “fix list” to record both anticipated and discovered errors and inconsistencies, and note details regarding each correction, including what was fixed, the date completed, and who did the job (if there is more one person involved).

The fixer does not copy edit. However, if the fixer notices problems with the language — such as grammar, unclear text, repetitive phrases — they can report these to the copy editor or author.

Typical fixer tasks might include:


Computer by mohamed_hassan has been designated to the public domain (CC0).


Edit and Review


Peer Review

Two hands typing on a laptop seen from above. A collage of many faces fill the background.

Look to your peers for feedback as you write

Inviting a colleague to contribute by writing a section or chapter to your textbook on a subject for which they are the expert is one way to ensure quality information in your open textbook. Another is to ask colleagues to serve as subject-matter experts (SME) and conduct a peer review — literally a review by a peer — of your work before it goes to copy editing. (Consider using one of your Contributing Authors.)

Like other textbook tasks, providing your SME with clear expectations will make this phase of the writing project smoother. It will also save your SME time and you frustration. Here are some suggestions.

SME Rubric

Use the following questions to help steer feedback and make sure all areas are covered.

  1. What information is inaccurate? Please offer corrections.
  2. Is there any information missing? Please provide a list.
  3. Are there learning objects that could be used to enhance the information, such as case studies, historical examples, graphs, tables, and images?
  4. Do you have a list of suggested readings for students?
  5. Can you suggest study questions or exercises that will help the student learn this information?

Here is the BCcampus Open Education Review Rubric:




Faces by geralt has been designated to the public domain (CC0).


How to Copy Edit

Copy editors add an important element to the creation or revision of a textbook. When they copy edit, these individuals provide an objective set of eyes that ensures grammar and spelling are correct, the established style for a textbook is followed (see Appendix 2: Style Guide), and the book’s language is suitable and understandable to the readers. Skipping this stage lowers the quality of the textbook.

It is recommended that trained copy editors be used for this phase. An author should never copy edit their own work. BCcampus Open Education used both independent copy editors and editors from an author’s university or college. It was interesting to observe how the copy editors’ work influenced textbook writing and production. For example, because a copy editor is not the subject-matter expert, they read a textbook like a student might, and quickly notice when information is missing or concepts are unclear. However, unlike a student, a copy editor has the skill to help an author rewrite a passage. Authors were happy to receive this feedback because they learned to present their material more effectively.

Make a plan

Like is done for other parts of your textbook’s timeline, it is important to clearly spell out the expectations for and schedule of the copy editor before this work begins. While the copy editor brings essential expertise to the writing process, it is the author-publisher’s or project coordinator’s responsibility to guide that expertise. (See Project Timeline.)

A clipboard with a checklist

Make a plan with your copy editors

Here are some items that should be addressed.

  1. Determine who will be the copy editor’s key contact. If someone other than the author-publisher is coordinating the project, then allow the copy editor to communicate with this individual.
  2. Clarify which style guide and other editing/styling references will be used by the copy editor. Instruct that a style sheet should be created and maintained; review the details of this document with the copy editor. (See Create a Style Sheet and Appendix 2: Style Guide.)
  3. If an authoring platform or software is being used, allow the copy editor to make grammatical, spelling, and styling changes directly in the system to save time. Trust the copy editor’s authority in this area. If the copy editor notices problems with styling that are difficult to fix, or repeat throughout the book, assign the correction to someone other than the author, such as the fixer. (See Fix as You Go.)
  4. If the copy editor is new to the technology being used, provide training. (See Technology: Accounts and Training.)
  5. Develop a copy-editing schedule. At BCcampus, we learned that copy editing chapters as they are completed is most effective. This tactic saves time for both the author and production team because problems are identified and corrected early.
  6. Define the copy editor’s role. For example, you might require that the copy editor check all grammar and spelling, in addition to scanning text for overall consistency, clarity, and style. If assessing content for accuracy and integrity will be the responsibility of the subject-matter expert, inform the copy editor. Include these points in the copy editor’s contract. (See Peer Review and Appendix 4: Contracts.)
  7. Determine which sections and elements of the textbook should be copy edited. Careful copy editing is time consuming (and potentially expensive) so if there are items that will be reviewed by other parties, tell your copy editor. Consider assigning the following to one of your support team members:
    1. in-text citations and the accompanying reference list
    2. figure and table captions
      1. non-Canadian spellings often cannot be corrected in text that is part of an image, graph, chart, or other figure taken from an external resource. Therefore, if spelling is important, use Canadian repositories when possible.
    3. figure and table numbering (are they in sequential order, consistent, and complete?)
    4. attribution statements (are they present for all resources? Is the format correct?)
    5. check links and fix those that are dead or open on the wrong web page
      1. archived web pages found in the Internet Archive: Wayback Machine [New Tab] can be used for dead links
  8. If the textbook is an adaptation of an existing book, decide if the unchanged original text and other elements of the book should be copy edited in addition to the new/changed text by the adapting author. This might be done:
    1. even if the original text has been copy edited to ensure that the new/changed text is consistent with the adapted work
    2. if the original text was not copy edited or poorly copy edited
  9. Ask the copy editor to keep a list of items that should be reviewed by the author such as:
    1. text that requires a significant rewrite
    2. subject-related questions

Authors should not make changes to textbook chapters once they have been copy edited as this can undo the copy editor’s work.


Checklist has been designated to the public domain (CC0).


How to Proofread

A red pen sits on top of paper that has been corrected in red pen

Proofreading is worth the extra time

As tempting as it might be, the proofreading phase should not be skipped as it’s the last opportunity to mold your textbook into a work that contains coherent writing, consistent styling and layout, and correct grammar and spelling. Perfection is the unattainable goal.

(It’s been said there’s less pressure to create a “perfect”product when creating an open textbook because it can easily be corrected later. However, relaxing standards can give potential adopters a bad impression of your book and even lead to poor-quality book.)

A trained copy editor typically acts as the proofreader, but the proofreader ideally should not be the same individual who copy edited the textbook. In addition, as was stated in the previous chapter, the proofer should not be the author.

Make a plan

Well in advance of this latter stage, think about and discuss with the proofreader what the requirements will be, and provide them with a clear plan. Many of the same items noted in the How to Copy Edit chapter can be referenced in addition to the items listed below.

  1. How many times should the textbook be proofread? Proofreading is typically an iterative process whereby a manuscript is scanned one or more times until it is error free — or as close to error free as is humanly possible. However, if time and budget are a concern, it might be decided to enlist only one or two rounds of proofreading.
  2. Provide the proofreader with the most recent version of the style sheet and style guides as references. (See Create a Style Sheet and Appendix 2: Style Guide.)
  3. Some proofreaders report that it’s easier to identify errors on the printed page. If the textbook has been written in an online system, clarify if this is the proofreader’s preferred manner of working, and whether there is time and money to accommodate this extra step. (Corrections made on the printed page must be entered into the digital version of the book by either the proofreader or someone else. If not the proofreader, make sure the chosen individual is highly skilled in detail work.)

Authors should not make changes to textbook chapters once they have been proofread as this can undo the proofreader’s work.


Correcting has been designated to the public domain (CC0).


Guideline for Copy Editors

A pen writing on lined paper

Advice for and from copy editors

While the basic rules of copy editing apply whether working on a traditional or open textbook, there are some differences. The below guidelines are for (and reviewed by) professional copy editors.

  1. Writing and editing a web-based textbook will likely occur in an online platform such as Pressbooks. Therefore, it’s important that editors, authors, and other participating parties agree to and understand how changes in the textbook and platform will be made.
    1. Using an annotation tool such as [New Tab] can be helpful when the copy editor wants to highlight and comment on problems that should not or cannot be changed without instruction.
  2. 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. You might find that an openly licensed textbook has special requirements such as ensuring that all images are properly licensed and correctly attributed. (See Appendix 2: Style Guide.)
  3. Be sure that the copy editor is familiar with or receives training for editing web-based textbooks in the online platform.
  4. A web-based textbook will likely include live links (in the body and possibly in the reference list), and multimedia. Decide at the outset of your textbook project what the copy editor is responsible for checking.
  5. A web-based textbook, online platform, and other technical elements introduce additional challenges. Clarify at the beginning of an editing project:
    1. if the copy editor should report technical problems in the textbook
    2. to whom the copy editor should report technical problems relating to accessing or using the online platform or textbook
    3. who is responsible for fixing technical problems (the author, the project manager, or the managing editor)
  6. Clarify, at the beginning of an editing project, who will receive the copy editor’s editing notes and how issues will be addressed. Determine if the copy editor will contact the author directly or through an intermediary, such as a project manager.


Writing has been designated to the public domain (CC0).





The Final Check

We learned that after a textbook was proofread, it’s a good idea to conduct one last review. This task should be done by someone with an eye for detail — such as the fixer or copy editor. (See Fix as You Go and How to Copy Edit.) That way, if they are required to make corrections, it won’t disrupt the completed copy editing and proofreading. (Needless to say, the style sheet and style guide should be referenced during this work.) For ideal results, give the assigned individual a few days to a week away from the textbook before they begin. This break allows the checker to clear their head for better concentration.

Like other phases of production, establish the scope of this final check. The amount of time available and length and complexity of the textbook will help shape this plan. Though, as is true for many aspects of textbook production, this final check can feel like it is never finished.

If you’re uncertain about what or how much of the textbook to review, prioritize the items on your list and let the allotted time determine what you will focus on. For example, you might decide that it’s most important to double check the layout of the book, such as its learning objectives, exercises, and key takeaways. This then becomes the first task. Your next priority might be the legality of the resources added to your textbook. So, you ask the checker to review all items borrowed from external sources, such as photos and graphs, and confirm that they do in fact hold an open-copyright licence or are in the public domain. (See Copyright and Open Licences and Resources: Only the Open.) The third item, time permitting, could be revisiting sections where mistakes are easily overlooked, such as citations and attribution statements.

Bottom line: Checking some of your work is better than checking none of your work.


Textbook Cover

 The cover for Database Design The cover image for BC Reads: Adult Literacy Fundamentals The cover image for Introduction to Tourism and Hospitality in BC


A professional looking cover helps ensure a good first impression for your open textbook, so we advise that you use the services of a professional, such a graphic designer, for this task. Covers for textbooks published for the BCcampus collection rely on a template devised by our marketing department. Above are three examples. The art for Database Design, 2nd Edition [New Tab] was selected with guidance from our project team; the photo for BC Reads: Adult Literacy Fundamental English, Course Pack 2 [New Tab], was chosen by the textbook’s author, and the collage of photos used for Introduction to Tourism and Hospitality in BC [New Tab] was a collective decision made by the team of writers behind this book.

If you’re working with an academic press or your organization’s publishing department, they might create a textbook cover for you. If not, then see the Open Textbook Cover Toolkit [New Tab] found in the BCcampus Open Education Print-on-Demand Guide.

Incorporate the creation of the textbook cover into the project’s timeline and allow time to review the cover’s draft and to make changes if needed. (See Project Charter and Timeline.) Provide clear instructions to the designer about information the cover should contain. This includes items such as:

Cover art

If you decide to include an image on the cover, you can use an original photo or artwork or search for an image in one of the many repositories containing items that have been released with an open-copyright licence. (See Resources: Search and Find.) Take these steps for best results.

  1. Check the permissions and/or licence of the image. (See Resources: Only the Open.)
  2. Find as large and high quality of an image as you can (preferably 300 DPI 7×5 inches or 2250×1500 pixels at 300dpi) for optimal resolution and clarity in both the digital and print version of your textbook. If you provide a PDF of your textbook for download and file size is a concern, use a smaller file.
  3. If you’re undecided about cover art, consider an abstract, even generic, photo or illustration that conveys the theme of your book rather than a specific image. Colour often works better than black and white.
  4. If the image is taken from an external source, record the following information for the attribution statement:
    1. name of the image and its link
    2. name of the creator and a link (if available) to the creator’s home page in the repository used
    3. the licence or permission type, or if it is in the public domain

Sample Cover Requirements

Dennis Kong is the Solutions Consultant at Simon Fraser University’s Document Solutions department, which provides print-on-demand copies for the B.C. Open Textbook Collection. He provided the following specifications to keep in mind when creating textbook covers:

  • 8.5×11 inches for the printable area with a one-eighth-inch (minimum) bleed all around (8.625 x 11.125)
  • Colours should be CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) if possible
  • Resolution should be at 300 DPI (especially for images)
  • Avoid using unusual fonts. If necessary, convert the fonts to outlines or convert to an image
  • Avoid having any text (or critical design elements) located less than a half-inch from any edge


BCcampus Open Education website (screenshots) are used under a CC BY 4.0 International Licence.


Editable Files

Editable files are the digital files generated for an open textbook, or other open educational resource, that can be easily changed or edited. Editable files allow faculty, students, and others using your book to put into practice all permissions granted by an open-copyright licence, especially the rights to revise and remix, as described in David Wiley’s 5Rs framework [New Tab].

A pen poised on top of typed page that contains many corrections in red ink

Editable files allow for easier changes to an open textbook

Which files are editable

Most files can be edited, but the task isn’t always simple. To determine whether a file is suitable for editing, one must ask these questions:

Text documents are the most editable file type because changes can be made directly to the file’s native format, and the task does not require additional steps or technology."Choosing the Right File Format/Text Documents," Wikibooks, last revised July 26, 2017, (accessed August 17, 2017). This information is used under a CC BY-SA 3.0 licence. Examples of text document files are OpenOffice [New Tab] (ODT) and Microsoft Word [New Tab] (DOCX).

xHTML and XML [New Tab] files are designed for interoperability, i.e. the transfer of information from one source to another. xHTML (Extensible Hypertext Markup Language) is a member of the XML family and acts as an extended and stricter version of the broadly used HTML (Hypertext Markup Language)."HTML," Wikipedia, last revised August 12, 2017, (accessed August 17, 2017), and "XHTML," Wikipedia, last revised April 24, 2017, (accessed August 17, 2017). This information is used under a CC BY-SA 3.0 licence. Editing these types of files is typically a two-step process whereby the second step involves transferring the file to a system that allows editing of the file. HTML files can work in certain platforms including WordPress if an HTML Import plugin [New Tab] is used.

EPUB files are designed for portability. These files can be read by most eReader devices and software. The point of these files is not to provide editing capability, but to deliver a comprehensive package that contains all elements of a book including text and images — like a zipped package — to a device for reading offline. However, Pressbooks does accept an EPUB file so that it too can be edited once added to this platform. Like the xHTML and XML files, editing using an EPUB file is a two-step process.

A PDF file (Portable Document Text) can be edited with the right software, such as Adobe Acrobat PDF Editor, but doing so is not ideal. The PDF format was designed to represent documents not create or change them."PDF Reference, sixth edition: Adobe Portable Document Format version 1.7," Adobe Systems Incorporated, November 2006, (accessed August 17, 2017).

If you are working in Pressbooks, see How to Export Different File Types from a Textbook [New Tab] in the BCcampus Open Education Pressbooks Guide.

Beyond text

In addition to providing editable files for the textbook, authors should also consider offering editable files for media included in their textbook or as ancillary OER, such as images, audio clips and video files, and the transcripts that accompany these media. Some questions to ask when doing this are:

File types and accessibility

Black and white photo of Josie Gray

Josie Gray

One of Josie Gray’s tasks as Open Education Production Assistant with BCcampus is to review open textbooks for accessibility and edit them so they meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines [New Tab] (WCAG). She says that some file types work with some assistive technologies better than others and that having multiple file types available allows students to select the format that works best for them and their learning style.

For example, EPUB and MOBI files work best for people who want to access content through their phone or tablet offline, as the text and content will adjust to fit the screen. While PDFs are the easiest file type to open and use, they don’t work well with mobile devices, screen readers, or text-to-speech technology.  Instead, students using screen readers will likely use the web version of the book.

Alternatively, people who need a larger text size may choose to use a PDF or the web version, as both formats make it easy to enlarge the text size.

Print copies of a book are important for people who prefer learning from print materials. In addition, they are the best option for people who are not comfortable with computers or don’t have a reliable Internet access. (See Print-on-Demand Copies.)

For more information on accessibility in open textbooks, see the BCcampus Open Education Accessibility Toolkit [New Tab].

Audio files

Audio files embedded into the web version of a textbook or offered as a stand-alone resource for a printed book can assist students who are visually impaired or those with a learning disability, as they can listen while reading along. Each of the twenty-three open textbooks in the Common Core Trades series [New Tab] includes an audio file in addition to the textbook. For adults learning to read, audio clips of short stories from the accompanying text are embedded throughout the B.C. Reads: Adult Literacy Fundamental English, Course Pack 1 [New Tab].


  1. Can changes be made?: I tend to scribble a lot by Nic McPhee used under a CC BY-SA 2.0 License.
  2. Some of this text is from Finding the Key to Open by Lauri Aesoph and is used under a CC BY 4.0 International Licence.


Remove Platform Access

If you have used an online system or platform to write the textbook, remove access for all individuals who have accounts — including copy editors and fixers — before publication so no changes will be made unexpectedly or unintentionally.

Only those who will be responsible for monitoring and maintaining the textbook, such as the author, should retain access to the editing platform.


Textbook Citation

The open-copyright licence applied to an open textbook, or the book’s designation to the public domain, legally precludes the need to cite the book in a scholarly work or homework assignment, as long as an attribution statement is provided. (See Citation vs. Attribution.) Still, scholars and students may want to cite your work in an effort to recognize your effort and expertise, and in keeping with the practice of academic integrity [New Tab].

Though not legally required, it is the practice of BCcampus Open Education to credit authors of textbooks in the public domain as a gesture of academic courtesy.

Citing an open textbook is like citing any online textbook. Therefore, as the author and publisher of an open textbook, it is your job to provide the elements required for a complete reference, regardless of citation style, such as: textbook title, author(s) or editor(s), copyright year, and publisher name and place. It is also helpful for readers to see a citation example or two in different citation styles.


Clinical Procedures for Safer Patient Care cover

Here are some sample citations for a BCcampus open textbook:

APA: Doyle, G. R., & McCutcheon, J. A. (2015). Clinical Procedures for Safer Patient Care. Victoria, BC: BCcampus. Retrieved from

Chicago: Doyle, Glynda and Jodie McCutcheon. Clinical Procedures for Safer Patient Care. Victoria, BC: BCcampus, 2015.

MLA: Doyle, Glynda Rees and Jodie Anita McCutcheon. Clinical Procedures for Safer Patient Care. BCcampus, 2015, Accessed 27 Oct. 2017.

Most university and college libraries provide examples of how to cite online books, such as the Citation Style Guides [New Tab] from Thompson Rivers University.


BCcampus Open Education website (screenshot) is used under a CC BY 4.0 International Licence.



Once you’ve completed your textbook, it’s time to let everyone know. Here are some ideas about how and where to spread the word. As you do this, remember to keep track of where your textbook is posted as you’ll want to keep all contacts and collections informed when changes or corrections are made to the book.

Home institution and colleagues

Authors who are faculty members or instructors at a college, institute, or university have a ready-made community that can help promote a new textbook. Here are someways you can make use of your institutional networks:

Projects and organizations

Ask open textbook projects and OER organizations to spread the word about your book. It is common practice for these groups to monitor communication channels for new open textbooks so they can let their networks know. Below are a number of OER organizations in Canada in the United States. In addition, you can reach out to open-education organizations in English-speaking countries outside of North America, such as the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.


United States

Repository applications

Many open textbook collections allow authors to submit requests for their book to be included. Some repositories require that a new textbook meet certain criteria, such as an evaluation by a subject-matter expert. Here are a few examples of where you can apply:




Print-on-Demand Copies

Make arrangements for print-on-demand copies of your textbook to be available either through your college or university bookstore, student services, Amazon or other print-on-demand or self-publishing service. Print-on-demand services are helpful for students or instructors who prefer to work with a physical, bound version of your textbook.

BCcampus Open Education provides this service — in conjunction with Simon Fraser University’s Document Solutions department — for all open textbooks in our collection, indicated with a “Buy a print copy” button on the book’s record page.


You can buy a black-and-white print copy of British Columbia in a Global Context for $7.20.

It is expected that printed copies of an open textbook will cost money. However, prices are typically set for cost recovery only.

The price for an open textbook varies depends on:

If you set up a print-on-demand option for your textbook, it is best for readers to use a service in your country. If you elect to provide a service outside your country, make this clear to your readers as they will have to contend with a different currency, and duties and fees related to customs and processing. BCcampus learned this lesson when its open-textbook readers complained about American-only options to purchase textbooks. Our solution was to provide a Canadian-based supplier for all our books and, when a U.S. print-on-demand option is also available, to clearly label it.

For more information, see the BCcampus Open Education Print-on-Demand Guide [New Tab].




Maintain the Book

Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance.

-Kurt Vonnegut"Kurt Vonnegut Quotes," Goodreads, (accessed August 11, 2017).

It can be said — or is assumed — that a textbook released with an open-copyright licence is maintained by the community that uses it. However, the reality is that many open textbooks aren’t changed — at least the original versions — once they’ve been published. Instructors who adopt an open textbook might customize it for their own use and maintain a private copy, but the community may or may not benefit from these improvements.

Textbooks that have an individual or organization that takes responsibility for its ongoing quality and viability tend to experience the highest adoption rates. At BCcampus Open Education, we have learned that the most successful textbooks are the ones with authors that take an active interest in their maintenance by paying attention to errors, noting potential improvements, and promoting their book amongst colleagues.

The first step when creating your post-publication plan is to layout how your completed book will be maintained. This involves setting up ways to receive and record feedback, fixing reported errors, and planning for revisions and new editions. There is a lot to keep track of, so setting up a schedule can be helpful.


group of people talking to each other

Invite feedback from your readers

Give your readers a way to offer feedback about your textbook. Some authors do this by adding a line to the preface or introduction that invites suggestions. You can provide your contact information such as an email or create a feedback page can be added to the front or back section of the textbook. This feedback page should contain details about the kind of feedback you’re looking for and how the reader can submit comments.

If the textbook is housed in an online platform that doesn’t use page numbers, it can be difficult for readers to clearly describe what section of the text they want to comment on. In your call for feedback, encourage readers to be as specific as possible in their description of the location of their comments. Alternatively, some online platforms have a comments feature that can be enabled. Another option would be to use an external (and open source) annotation system, such as [New Tab], which allows users to leave comments directly on a web page.

Think about how you will process feedback. The treatment for each item will depend on what has been reported: an error, new information, a potential resource to add, or suggestion on the structure of the textbook. It is also good practice to respond to recommendations by thanking your colleague for taking the time to write to you. If you have information about how to use your textbook or ideas about supplementary materials, include these in your response.

Another way to collect feedback on your textbook is to give instructors the opportunity to submit a review of your textbook. (See Textbook Reviews.)


Regardless of how carefully a book is copy edited and proofread, it will probably contain errors after publication. Your job is to accept this fact, create a system that allows readers to report errors to you, and develop a means to correct these errors. BCcampus Open Education uses a Report a Textbook Error form [New Tab]. A feedback form that invites error reporting might be sufficient for you, or you can just provide an email where people can contact you.

Think about who will make the corrections. This can be you or someone else, like a student assistant or copy editor. This will often depend on who has access to the book’s source files after publication. (See Remove Platform Access.) Also, how often will corrections be made? Will you fix them immediately? Monthly? Quarterly? And how will you respond to the individual reporting the mistake? A simple thank you with a description of how and when the error will be addressed is one way.

Develop a means to track and record corrected errors for your readers’ reference. You can use an erratum — a record of errors and their corrections for a book or other publication — that is added to your book. Or, like BCcampus, record adjustments on a Versioning History page. If there is more than one format or file type for which the textbook is available, remember to update these and note the date on the erratum or Versioning History page.


Many authors are already thinking about the next edition of their textbook before the first edition is published. They realize that their textbook is a snapshot of information and that this information will continue to evolve after the book is published, so they plan for the next edition immediately. (Remember: Writing a book will never feel finished. There is always something that can be changed, improved, or added. At some point you will need to stop and say “good enough.”)

Some authors prepare by collecting notes about what they’d like to change, and material and resources they want to add to the next edition. Others create a duplicate copy of their book — easy to do in Pressbooks, for example — and use it as a template for the next edition. If you want to plan ahead for the next edition, decide how much new and changed information warrants a new edition, and how often this might occur.


The maintenance schedule for your book can and should include all tasks that will keep your book relevant and current. Develop a timetable and process for each of the following:

Don’t forget to inform colleagues and collections that use and host your textbook about significant changes. (See Communications and Track Adoptions.)




Group has been designated to the public domain (CC0).


Track Adoptions

One of the side benefits of self-publishing an open textbook is an automatic membership in the open education community for which it is written. As the author of an open textbook, you are in a unique position that not only allows you to pinpoint members of this community — by tracking instructors who use or adopt your book in the classroom — but also establishes you as an OER contributor.

Capturing and recording open textbook adoptions in British Columbia is a key task for BCcampus Open Education. We ask faculty using open textbooks to fill out our Adoption of an Open Textbook form [New Tab] by providing us with their name and institution, the course for which the textbook is used, the number of students enrolled in each section of the course, the cost of the displaced textbook, the terms in which the adoption occurs, and whether the adoption will be ongoing. We also ask adopters if we may share their information with other interested faculty.

Surprisingly, this work has proven to be more than just about numbers. It has also led BCcampus to our province’s flourishing open education community. Tracking adoptions has helped our team to connect with and support faculty and staff interested in open education. Paying attention to who is using open textbooks has revealed open education trends in B.C.’s colleges, institutes, and universities, and has given us the ability to connect the dots — and make introductions — between likeminded colleagues.

For your textbook, decide how you will track its adoptions and what statistics you’ll collect. Add the details to your communications plan. (See Communications.) Here is a template that can be used to record these numbers:

Remind colleagues who are using your textbook — or potential adopters — that they are free to customize it to fit the requirements of their curriculum, students, and teaching style. (See the BCcampus Open Education Adaptation Guide [New Tab].) You can ask adopters for comments about what they like about the book and if they have suggestions for changes or additions that might improve the book, items you can take note of your next edition. These individuals might even agree to writing a review or assisting with an update. (See Maintain the Book and Textbook Reviews.)

Put your stats to work

Like reviews, posting adoption statistics will encourage other instructors to look at your textbook. The amount of information you share and post by your textbook will depend on the permissions granted by current adopters who have contacted you. You might choose to present anonymized numbers that show the total number of instructors, institutions, savings, and students affected.

At BCcampus, we display adoption statistics in two views. On our website’s home page, a banner containing aggregated numbers on student savings, total adoptions, and number of participating institutions in British Columbia are posted.

$5,240,407 to $5,755,283 in student savings. 1719 adoptions. 42 participating institutions

The BCcampus Open Education website displays savings and adoption statistics for the B.C. Open Textbook collection. These stats are current as of January 2018.

When the “More Stats…” link [New Tab] (circled in red in the above image) is clicked, then details about these numbers are revealed on another web page, along with definitions for the various terms used to describe adoption statistics (see below).

The BCcampus Open Textbook Stats page. Long description available.

BCcampus Open Textbook Stats page. [Long Description]

Lastly, consider how to analyze your adoption statistics. For instance, you might examine them for trends by geography, course level and type, and term or semester. Use these numbers to guide the ongoing promotion of your book and to educate current and future users.

Long Descriptions

Image long description: The BCcampus Open Education website stats page

Student savings $5,240,407.00 to $5,755,283.00
Number of B.C. students using open textbooks 56,667
Number of B.C. institutions currently adopting 42
Top 5 adopting institutions (in order)
  1. Kwantlen Polytechnic University
  2. Langara College
  3. Douglas College
  4. University of British Columbia
  5. Camosun College
Number of known B.C. faculty adopting 407

Adoption: Each adoption refers to a course section within a specific term and year for which an open textbook has replaced a primary textbook or educational resource that must be purchased.

Faculty: The number of individual instructors who have adopted one or more open textbooks for one or more course sections. A faculty member is only counted once.

Savings: Savings include a range. The number at the lower end is calculated as follows: number of students (see “Students”) times $100 (This number was derived by OpenStax College based on a formula that takes into account used textbook purchases and rental costs as well as new textbook costs.) The number at the upper end is calculated as follows: number of students (see “Students”) times the actual cost of the textbook being replaced if purchased as hard copy and new.

Students: The total number of students in a course section within which an open textbook is used as the primary educational resource.

[Return to Image]


BCcampus Open Education website (screenshots) are used under a CC BY 4.0 International Licence.


Textbook Reviews

Giving faculty and students the opportunity to read reviews about your textbook adds to the book’s credibility. A textbook with many positive reviews will reassure instructors looking for an open textbook that their colleagues approve of it. The reviews will also help you improve the quality of your textbook. By reading reviews carefully, you will learn about reported errors and suggested improvements. Record errors that can be fixed immediately in your maintenance plan and note any suggestions for future editions of your textbook. (See Maintain the Book.)

Review rubric

Using an established set of questions — or rubric — yields consistent and comprehensive feedback from each individual who reviews your textbook. Several open-education organizations use the BCcampus Open Education Review Rubric [Word file] — an openly licensed document available to anyone to use or change. Feel free to use this rubric, either as is or customized to your needs, if you decide to solicit reviews once your textbook is finished. These are the topics it covers:

  1. Comprehensiveness
  2. Content accuracy
  3. Relevance and longevity
  4. Clarity
  5. Consistency
  6. Modularity
  7. Organization, structure, and flow
  8. Interface
  9. Grammatical and spelling errors
  10. Diversity and inclusion
  11. Book recommendation

Find reviewers

There are several ways to locate reviewers. However, before looking for candidates, think about how you will determine a reviewer’s qualifications. At BCcampus Open Education, we ask that reviewing faculty fill out an application form and describe their credentials for and experience in teaching the textbook’s subject. We also ask for a list of current courses they are teaching at a post-secondary institution in the textbook’s subject area.

Once this information has been received, our team confirms this data by searching for the reviewer in their university or college’s faculty directory. If the individual is not listed, we ask for confirmation of their position from the department chair or dean.

How you canvass for potential reviewers will depend on your discipline, home institution, and the resources available to you. One obvious method is to include a request for reviews wherever your textbook is posted. This might be in your institution’s library catalogue or on your department or faculty website. Information should include details such as reviewer qualifications, the review process, and payment for a completed review. If payment, even a small stipend, is not feasible, consider a barter arrangement with fellow open textbook authors in the same discipline. In other words, you offer to review their textbook in exchange for a review of yours.

Some collections, such as the Open Textbook Library [New Tab] and the B.C. Open Textbook Collection [New Tab], make it is a matter of course to gather reviews about books in their repositories. When you apply to add your book to a collection, ask if you may take a copy of the reviews generated for your textbook and place them in other spots where your textbook is posted. It is likely that these reviews, like the textbooks, are openly licensed. (See Communications.)


Develop a procedure for processing reviews from beginning to end. For example, decide how reviewers should contact you with a request to review your book, whether it’s by email, an application form, or other. Create a system for receiving the completed review, tracking in-progress reviews, and posting reviews. Consider constructing templates and standard language that can be used for communicating with reviewers at each stage of the process.

Deadlines are important for both you and the reviewer. At BCcampus, reviewers are given a deadline of three months to finish. If they don’t, access to the review form expires and reapplication to review the book is required. It has been our experience that approximately half of all applicants complete reviews.

BCcampus Open Education follows standard procedures — including email templates — that provide efficient and consistent services to reviewers. The steps include:

  1. Posting a call for reviews to Review an Open Textbook [New Tab] on the BCcampus OpenEd website and by each textbook in the B.C. Open Textbook Collection [New Tab]
  2. Requiring that potential reviewers fill out an application [New Tab] to determine their eligibility
  3. Vetting all applications to confirm each reviewer’s qualifications
  4. Emailing each successful candidate a copy of the BCcampus Open Education Review Rubric [Word file], instructions, and the deadline
  5. Recording and monitoring all reviews at each stage of the process whether they are in progress, completed,  or expired
  6. Sending a confirmation email to the reviewer once the completed review is submitted, then posting the review, and updating records
Like the textbooks for which they are written, reviews are typically open, i.e. they are open peer reviews. This means that the reviewer’s name, position, and institution are published along side the review.


Appendix 1: Licences and Tools

Below are descriptions of the public domain tools and Creative Commons (open-copyright) licences used in open textbooks and other open educational resources.

Public domain tools

When copyright, trademark, patents, or other intellectual property (IP) laws expire, the works protected by these laws enter the public domain. Works within the public domain are owned by the public, which means that anyone is allowed to use these works without obtaining permission, but no one can own them.Rich Stim, "Welcome to the Public Domain," Copyright and Fair Use: Stanford University Libraries, (accessed August 2, 2017). (See Copyright and Open Licences.)

Some creators choose to place or “dedicate” their works to the public domain. For this, Creative Commons has created public domain tools to enable the “labeling and discovery of works that are already free of known copyright restrictions”."Public domain," Creative Commons, (accessed August 2, 2017).

CC0 (CC zero)

The CC0 logo can be used to mark a work indicating that:

The person who associated a work with this deed has dedicated the work to the public domain by waiving all of his or her rights to the work worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.

You can copy, modify, distribute and perform the work, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission."CC0 1.0 Universal(CC0 1.0): Public Domain Dedication," Creative Commons, (accessed August 2, 2017).

This tool is best used for your own work, not those owned by others or currently in the public domain. Think of CC0 as the “no rights reserved” option."CC0 FAQ," Creative Commons, (accessed January 3, 2018). Below are two logos that can be used: an icon and a button. Notice that 0 (zero) is the prominent symbol used to indicate that the creator of the work, and thus copyright owner, has removed all restrictions: in other words, there are zero restrictions. For more information, see the Creative Commons CC0 page [New Tab].

A zero inside a circle

CC0 (CC zero) icon

A circle with a zero inside followed by "Public Domain"

CC0 (CC zero) button

Public Domain Mark

The Public Domain Mark should be used to “mark works already free of known copyright and database restrictions and in the public domain throughout the world.”"Public Domain Mark," Creative Commons, (accessed December 13, 2017). For more information, see the Creative Commons Public Domain Mark page [New Tab].

Below are two logos that can be used to present the Public Domain Mark: an icon and a button. The representative image is a line through the copyright symbol, a C, indicating that copyright no longer applies, and the work is now in the public domain.

A "C" in a circle with a line through it

Public domain mark icon

A "C" in a circle with a line through it, followed by "public domain"

Public domain mark button

Creative Commons licences

Here are the most commonly used Creative Commons licences listed in order of permissions, from most open to least open.

CC BY licence logo


Attribution (BY) – This licence allows others to distribute, change, remix, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This licence gives anyone using your work the most permissions.
CC BY-SA licence logo CC BY-SA
Attribution (BY) ShareAlike (SA) – This licence allows others to distribute, change, remix, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This licence is often compared to open source software licences. You, and anyone using your new version of this work, must release these adaptations with the same (“share alike”) CC BY-SA licence.
CC BY-NC licence logo CC BY-NC
Attribution (BY) NonCommercial (NC) – This licence allows others to distribute, change, remix, and build upon your work as long as they credit you for the original creation. However, they cannot sell it or profit from it except to recuperate costs of printing, for example. It is a nonprofit licence.
CC BY-NC-SA licence logo CC BY-NC-SA
Attribution (BY) NonCommercial (NC) ShareAlike (SA) – This licence allows others to distribute, change, remix, and build upon your work as long as they credit you for the original creation. However, you cannot sell it or profit from it except to recuperate costs of printing, for example. It is a nonprofit licence. You, and anyone using your new version of this work, must release these adaptations with the same (“share alike”) CC BY-NC-SA licence.
CC BY-ND licence logo CC BY-ND
Attribution (BY) NoDerivatives (ND) – This licence allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you. BCcampus Open Education does not include textbooks that have ND restrictions in the B.C. Open Textbook Collection [New Tab].
CC BY NC ND license logo CC BY-NC-ND
Attribution (BY) NonCommercial (NC) NoDerivatives (ND) – This licence is the most restrictive of the six main Creative Common licences, allowing redistribution. This licence is often called the “free advertising” licence because it allows others to download and share your work with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially. It is a nonprofit licence.


You can also watch these videos for more information

The first video, by Creative Commons, is called “Wanna Work Together?” about open-copyright licences.

Thumbnail for the embedded element "Wanna Work Together?"

A YouTube element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:

This second video was produced by the University of Guelph Library and is called “What are Creative Commons Licenses?”

Thumbnail for the embedded element "What are Creative Commons Licenses?"

A YouTube element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:


The “Creative Commons licences” section of this chapter was adapted and remixed from eCampus Ontario’s “Creative Commons Licences Explained”  and is used under a CC BY 4.0 International Licence. eCampus Ontario previously adapted this content from Erik Christensen under a CC BY 3.0 Licence.


Appendix 2: Style Guide

Before writing a new textbook or revising an existing one, it is important to establish a road map that will guide the style of the work. That’s where a style guide comes in handy. In addition to the style guide, you should create a style sheet that outlines the specific characteristics of your book. (See Create a Style Sheet.)

Below is an alphabetical list of the topics covered in this style guide. Also see the BCcampus Writing Guidelines for Style and Tone [New Tab].

BCcampus follows the Canadian Press Stylebook [New Tab].


Citation Style


Dictionaries and Reference Books


Labels and Captions




Reference Lists




Boldface is reserved for key terms within the text body. It should not be used for emphasizing a word or phrase. See emphasizing words with punctuation.

Citation style

Like any academic work, it is important to cite new information. Refer to SFU’s Writing & Style Guides [New Tab] for citation style guides and tips on how to cite. (See also Citation vs. Attribution.)

Select the citation style to be used for referencing material in your book and note this on your style sheet. If you are writing about a subject within a specific discipline, select the citation style appropriate for that field.

If you are adapting an existing book, use the citation style chosen by the original author.

With reference to the style guide you have chosen, determine:

If you are adapting a work and remove an in-text citation, remove the reference from the reference list.

If you want to indicate sources used for writing that have not been specifically cited in the text, add these items to a Bibliography at the end of the chapter.

Pay close attention to the punctuation used for the citation style you’ve chose, such as:

Note: No periods should be used after URLs when they end a reference list entry.

See Reference Lists.


Em dashes ( — )

En dashes (-)

  1. Use an en dash when expressing a range of numbers, such as the years of a person’s life, e.g., 1955-2001.
  2. There should be no space on either side of the en dash.
  3. In Pressbooks, use one hyphen to indicate one short (en) dash.

Dictionaries and reference books

For in-text citations and reference lists, consult the style manual particular to the discipline you work in (e.g., MLA Handbook, APA, Chicago Manual of Style).


Italics and foreign words

Often, foreign words are italicized in a textbook. However, if you’re not sure whether to use them or not, consider the following:

Labels and captions

For guidelines on how to label, number, and add captions to all resources non-text resources, see Resources: Captions and Attributions. This section also discusses best practices for attributing objects that are not original creations but have instead been borrowed from an external repository.


Because this style guide was created for Canadian authors, metric measurements are used. As such, we use kilometres, not miles; millimetres, centimetres, and metres, not inches, feet, or yards; kilograms not pounds; and Celsius (C), not Fahrenheit (F).

If an existing book is being revised, convert imperial measurements to metric and round off the result. For example, 10 inches equals 25.4 centimetres. Record this as 25 centimetres.


Spell out numbers from one to nine and use Arabic numerals for numbers greater than nine, except as indicated in the checklist below.

When to use numerals rather than words


Consider how punctuation will be handled in your book. Below is the standard established for this style guide. If you choose one or more different styles, enter these on your style sheet. (See Create a Style Sheet.)

Emphasizing words with punctuation

Sometimes an author will want to stress or emphasize a word or phrase. While acceptable, this practice should be kept to a minimum. In most cases, the word(s) should be written in a way that the stress or importance of a word or term is clear in context. Follow these guidelines:

Reference lists

Reference lists are typically laid out in alphabetical order by the last name of the primary or first-listed author. This, however, does depend on the citation style that your choose.

If the title of a publication is used instead (no author listed), then entries that begin with “The” should be alphabetically sorted by the word after “The.” (e.g., The Economist should be sorted in the E’s.)

See Citation Style.


Use only one space after a period (i.e., between sentences) and after a colon (:).


In general, Canadian spellings are used for open textbooks managed by the BCcampus Open Education. (See Appendix 3: Canadian Spellings and Word List.) List all spelling exceptions on the style sheet for your textbook. (See Create a Style Sheet.)

For authors who are not writing in English, a standard spelling list can be created as part of the textbook’s style sheet.


Appendix 3: Canadian Spellings and Word List

In general, the style guide for the Self-Publishing Guide recommends Canadian spellings. (See Appendix 2: Style Guide.) Consult this list for the first-choice spelling preferences for words and terms. For words not included on this list, BCcampus Open Education references the Canadian Oxford Dictionary [New Tab]. Any spelling exceptions should be recorded on your textbook’s style sheet. (See Create a Style Sheet.)



Aboriginal (preferred to “Indian” and “Native”)
acknowledgment (no “e”)
Act (of Parliament; u.c., roman)
AD/BC (small caps, no periods; AD 5, 12 BC) [Note, however, that in most current texts, CE and BCE are preferred style.)
advisor (not -er)
AIDS (no need to spell out)
Alzheimer’s disease
anti (close compound except when word begins with an i or capital letter, or if word may be unclear or looks awkward)
attention deficit disorder, ADD
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADHD
attorney general (no hyphen; u.c. when used as title)


baby boomers
backup (n. and adj.)
B.C. (the province)
best-seller list
Bill (u.c. when referring to legislation)
breastfeeding, breastfed
breast milk
burnout (n.)


cabinet (l.c.)
caregiver, caretaker
chair (not chairman or chairperson)
checkup (n.), check up (v.)
cheque, chequebook
child care
cleanup (adj., n.)
clear-cut (adj.)
cognitive-behavioral therapy, CBT
common sense (n.), commonsense (adj.)
cost-effective, cost-effectiveness
counselling, counsellor
Criminal Code
cutoff (adj.)


data (may be plural or singular, but be consistent)
data set
day care (n.), day-care (adj.)
decision-maker (n.)
decision making (n. phrase)
decision-making (adj.)
de facto (no italics)
defence (n.)
dependant (n.)
dependent (adj.)
dos and don’ts
dropout (n.)


e.g. (follow with comma)
end-stage (adj.)
enroll, enrolled, enrolling, enrollment


fibre optic
field test
first aid supplies
First Nations
flare-up (n.), flare up (v.)
focused, focusing
…fold (close compound and spell out number used, “twofold,” “twelvefold”)
follow-up (n., adj.), follow up (v.)
front-line (preceding adj.)


governor general (no hyphen; u.c. as title)
Grade (1, 2, etc.)


hand washing (v.), hand-washing (adj.)
hands-on (adj.)
health care (n. or adj., open)
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus; never HIV virus)
HIV/AIDS (no need to spell out)


i.e. (follow with comma)
Indian (see “Aboriginal” “Non-Status” and “Status”)
Interior, the (of B.C.)
intra (close compound except when word begins with a or when word may be unclear or looks awkward)




kg (sing. and pl.), but use only with measurements; otherwise spell out as kilograms


labelled, labelling
legislature (but B.C. Legislative Assembly)
licence (n.), license (v.)
lieutenant governor (u.c. when used as title)
life cycle
life stage
lineup (n.), line up (v.)
login (n.), log in (v.)
long-term, longer-term (adj.)
Lower Mainland


makeup (n.)
mental health (n. or adj., open)
mg (sing. and pl.), but use only with measurements; otherwise spell out as milligrams
Ministry of Health, MOH (not “MoH”)
mL (sing. and pl.), but use only with measurements; otherwise spell out as millilitres
multi (close compound when word begins with consonant, “multidisciplinary,” “multispecialty”; hyphenate with vowel, “multi-authored”)


Native people (“Aboriginal” and “First
Nations” preferred)
non (close compound except when word may be unclear or looks awkward)


offence (n.)
on-site (adj.)
oriented (not “orientated”)
overuse, overused


per se (not ital.)
post (close compound except when word may be unclear or looks awkward)
Post-it Notes
practice (n.), practise (v.)
pre (close compound except when word begins with e or if word may be unclear or looks awkward)
preventive (not “preventative”)
prioritize (not “priorize”)
program, programmed, programming
publicly (not “publically”)


quasi- (hyphenate compound except in rare cases—“quasicrystal”)


raison d’être (no ital.)
randomized controlled trial, RCT
re (close compound except when word may be unclear or looks awkward; re-emerge, reissue)
real-time (adj., no quotation marks)
re-create (as in “create anew”)
risk-benefit ratio


Sea-to-Sky Highway, corridor
Section (of legislation)
sexually transmitted infection, STI (preferred to “sexually transmitted disease, STD”)
shock wave
side effect (always open)
smart phone
spinoff (n.)
Status Indian
sub-Saharan Africa


telehealth, telemedicine
time frame
toward (not “towards”)
travelled, travelling
type 1 and 2 diabetes


under way (adv., two words; adj., one word)
up-to-date (adj.)
U.S. (when used as an adj. or in a table/figure; otherwise spell out)
user name


video-imaging (n.)
vitamin C


wait list (n.), wait-list (v. and adj.)
walk-in clinic
web, the
West Nile Virus, WNV
West Side (of Vancouver)
Western society, Western world, Western Canada
World War I, II
World Wide Web






Appendix 4: Contracts

Below are simple contract templates that can be used as stand-alone contracts or schedules added to a larger contracts. Three versions are provided for the different individuals who might assist with an open textbook. In addition, a consent and release form is listed for interview subjects. These contracts and form have not been reviewed by a legal expert. For questions or more information about contracts, please consult with a legal professional.




Appendix 5: Checklists

Here are checklists for each phase of a textbook-creation project. These can be used to conduct a gap analysis and to manage the project.

  1. Look Before You Write [Word file]
  2. Prepare to Write [Word file]
  3. Plan the Book [Word file]
  4. Write and More [Word file]
  5. Edit and Review [Word file]
  6. Pre-publication [Word file]
  7. Post-publication [Word file]






5 Rs: The five tenets of the open movement: redistribute, remix, retain, reuse, and revise.

access: The ability of students, instructors, and others to obtain or gain access to education.

accessibility: The practice of creating online, digital, and print educational materials that are accessible to all, regardless of level of ability.

adapt: To customize or revise an open textbook or other open educational resource that has been released under an open-copyright licence.

adaptation: A work that has been revised or adapted. (See adapt.)

adopt: When instructors use an open textbook and/or other OERs in the classroom

adoption: An open textbook or OER that has been selected by an instructor to be used in their classroom.

Affordable Learning Georgia: A University System of Georgia (USG) [New Tab] initiative to promote student success by providing affordable textbook alternatives

APA (American Psychological Association) style: A style guide containing citation and styling information for works in the social sciences and education fields.

appendix/appendices: A part of the back matter of a book that provides supplementary material to information found in the main work.

attribute: To giving credit to the creator of an original work. This the most basic requirement of a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence. (See CC (Creative Commons) licence.)

attribution statement: A line crediting the original creator of a work, which fulfills the legal requirement of open-copyright licences. The statement should include the title of the work, the name of the creator, and licence type (with links to all).

back matter: The end section of a book. It typically contains material that supplements the main text.

BCcampus: An organization supporting the post-secondary institutions of British Columbia as they adapt and evolve their teaching and learning practices to enable powerful learning opportunities for the students of B.C.

bibliography: A list of all works used as references within a textbook, both those cited and read as background in preparation for writing. In the Chicago Manual of Style, the bibliography takes the place of a reference list. (See reference list.)

Campus Manitoba/OpenEd Manitoba: An initiative by Manitoba’s Minister of Education and Advanced Learning with the goal of making higher education more accessible by reducing students costs through the use of openly licensed textbooks in Manitoba.

caption: Text that accompanies a figure, table, or image within a work. A caption may include the image type, the image number, a description of image, and possibly an attribution statement.

CC (Creative Common) licence: An open-copyright licence (also called a copyright licence) that allows the copyright holder to provide a defined set of permissions to their work which allow others to use, share, and change the work providing the creator of the work is given credit.

CC0 (CC zero): A tool that can be used for individuals who have dedicated their work to the public domain by waiving all of their rights to the work worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighbouring rights, to the extent allowed by law. See public domain.

CCCOER: A growing consortium of community and technical colleges committed to expanding access to education and increasing student success through the adoption of open educational policies, practices, and resources.

Chicago Manual of Style (Chicago style): A style guide containing citation and styling information for works in the humanities. This style was developed by the Chicago University Press in 1906.

choice overload: A situation where it is difficult to make a decision because there are so many options.

citation: A method of providing the original source for information taken from a copyrighted work. The form a citation takes is generally determined by the style guide being used.

citation style: A standard for how citations should appear, either in-text or footnotes, and within the reference list or bibliography.

colophon: “A brief statement containing information about the publication of a book such as the place of publication, the publisher, and the date of publication.”"Colophon (publishing)," Wikipedia, (accessed February 12, 2018).

Commons: A general term often used to describe the entire body of OER and other open materials.

Connexions: A repository of open educational resources started by OpenStax where faculty, students, and others can view and share these items (

copy edit: To review and correct the grammar, spelling, punctuation, clarity, consistency, and style of a written work.

copyright: The exclusive legal right, given to an originator or an assignee, to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, musical or other creative material, and to authorize others to do the same.

copyright infringement: To infringe (use without permission) or induce the infringement of any third-party copyrights.

copyright licence: A licence by which a licencor can grant additional copyright permissions to licencees. See open-copyright licence.

copyright notice: Information posted by the creator of a work that lists the copyright symbol (the letter C inside a circle) or the word “copyright” followed by the year in which the work was created, and the name of the copyright owner. Sometimes, a statement of rights is also included.

Creative Commons (CC): A nonprofit organization devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally and to share. For more information see the Creative Commons website [New Tab].

derivative: See adaptation.

ecampus Ontario: A nonprofit corporation funded by the Government of Ontario to be a centre of excellence in online and technology-enabled learning for all publicly-funded colleges and universities in Ontario.

editable file: Files for a textbook that can be easily changed or edited. (See Editable Files.)

EPUB: A file type designed for e-readers. It can be downloaded and read on mobile devices such as smart phones, tablets, or computers. See MOBI.

erratum (Pl errata): A record of errors and their corrections for a book or other publication. Usually this statement gets its own page in the back matter. See Versioning History page.

ethnocentrism: “a tendency to view alien groups or cultures from the perspective of one’s own”"ethnocentristm,", (accessed December 11, 2017.)

fair dealing: An exception in Canada’s Copyright Act [New Tab] that allows you to use other people’s copyright-protected material for the purpose of research, private study, education, satire, parody, criticism, review or news reporting, provided that what you do with the work is ‘fair.’

fair use: A legal doctrine defined by the U.S. Copyright Office that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances.

figure: A label applied to an image or picture posted in an open textbook to assist with numbering (e.g., Figure 1.1.).

fixer: Someone who oversees the layout, formatting, and correct treatment of the various elements of an open textbook.

foreword: A short piece typically written by an outside expert in the field at the request of the primary author to be included in the front matter of a textbook.

front matter: The beginning section of a book placed before the main body.

GitHub: A development platform that includes open source projects such as open textbooks. For more information see

HTML file (Hyper Text Markup Language): A file type designed for transferring information from one source to another. An open-source online annotation tool. For more information see

intellectual property: A form of creative effort that can be protected through a trademark, patent, or copyright.

intellectual property rights: The permissions that cover creative efforts of intellectual property, of which copyright is one.

Internet Archive: Wayback Machine: A digital archive of the World Wide Web and other information on the Internet created by the Internet Archive, a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco.

LaTeX: A program used to typeset complex scientific and mathematical notations correctly.

licence: See copyright licence.

MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching): A curated collection of free and open online teaching, learning, and faculty development services contributed and used by an international education community. For more information see

MLA (Modern Language Association of America) style: A style guide containing citation and styling information for works in the literary and humanities fields.

MOBI: A file type that can be read on a Kindle e-reader or with Kindle software. See EPUB.

OER (open educational resources): Teaching, learning, and research resources that permit free use and repurposing because they are under an open-copyright licence or because they reside in the public domain and are not copyrighted.

OER Commons: A public digital library of open educational resources launched by ISKME (Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education) in 2007. For more information see

open: A term used to describe any work (written, images, music, etc.) that is openly licensed and available to the general public to reuse. See Creative Commons. 

OPEN Attribution Builder: A tool to help authors create attribution statements. It was built by the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges and can be found at OPEN Attribution Builder [New Tab].

open-copyright licence: A copyright licence that allows people to share, use, and edit the content of the work as long as they give credit to the original creator. See copyright licence and Creative Commons licence.

open educational resources: See OER.

Open Oregon Educational Resources: A group, also known as Open Oregon, that promotes textbook affordability for community college and university students and facilitates widespread adoption of open, low-cost, and high-quality materials for all of Oregon’s public colleges and universities.

open peer review: A review where the peer reviewer’s name, position, and institution are published along side the review. See peer review.

Open SUNY OER Services: An open access textbook publishing initiative established by State University of New York libraries and supported by SUNY Innovative Instruction Technology Grants [New Tab]. For more information see

Open Textbook Network (OTN): An organization that helps higher education institutions and systems advance the use of open textbooks and practices on their campuses. It also maintains the Open Textbook Library [New Tab]. For more information see

Open Washington: An OER network and website dedicated to providing easy pathways for faculty to learn, find, use, and apply OER.

OpenEd Manitoba: See Campus Manitoba.

open textbook: A textbook that is released under an open-copyright licence, which permits instructors, students, and others to reuse, retain, redistribute, revise, and remix its content.

overchoice: See choice overload.

PDF (Portable Document Text): A file type designed to represent documents for easy reading, and is common format made available for downloading open textbooks.

peer review: A review of a book conducted by a subject-matter expert before or after publication. See open peer review and subject-matter expert.

plagiarize: “To steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own, use (another’s production) without crediting the source”"plagiarize," Merriam-Webster Dictionary, (accessed August 8, 2017).

platform: An online software system or website.

Pressbooks: An open-source platform based on WordPress used to create and edit books. (See the BCcampus Open Education Pressbooks Guide [New Tab] and the Pressbooks Userguide [New Tab].)

print-on-demand copy: A printed hard- or softcover and bound version of a textbook made available through a printing service for which the reader pays a price typically set only for cost recovery.

proofread: The last stage of the copy-editing process. See copy edit.

public domain: A designation for works that are not restricted by copyright. They are owned by the public, which means that anyone is allowed to use these works without obtaining permission, but no one can own them.

Public Domain Mark: Used to “mark works already free of known copyright and database restrictions and in the public domain throughout the world”"Public Domain Mark," Creative Commons, (accessed December 13, 2017). See CC0 (CC zero).

public domain tools: Tools created to enable the “labeling and discovery of works that are already free of known copyright restrictions”"Public domain," Creative Commons, (accessed August 2, 2017).

Rebus Community: As group made up of faculty, staff, and students from post-secondary institutions and others from around the globe who support the work of open textbook authors and projects. Their talents include copy editing, proof reading, writing, and other skills.

recto: The front side of a page.

redistribute: One of the 5 Rs of openness. It signifies the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others.

reference list: A list of all resources cited within a textbook listed them alphabetically by the authors’ last names.

remix: One of the 5 Rs of openness. It signifies the right to combine the original or revised content with other open content to create something new.

RDFa (Resource Description Framework in Attributes): A W3C recommendation that adds a set of attribute-level extensions to HTML, XHTML, and various XML documents for embedding rich metadata within web documents.

retain: One of the 5 Rs of openness. It signifies the right to make, own, and control copies of the content.

reuse: One of the 5 Rs of openness. It signifies the right to use the content in a wide range of ways and to continue using the content.

revise: One of the 5 Rs of openness. It signifies the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself. See adapt.

source statement: An optional statement that can be appended to an attribution statement that notes the type of source from which an open educational resource is curated, such as a museum collection. This is used when noting the source type is significant to the textbook subject matter. An example of a source statement is: This image is available from the Toronto Public Library under the reference number JRR 1059.

statement of rights: A statement that clarifies the rights permitted for a work by the copyright owner. See copyright notice.

style guide: A guide that outlines the elements that an author follows when creating or adapting a book, or other work such as spelling, word use, punctuation, citation style, measurements, and layout. See APA, Chicago Manual of Style, or MLA.

style sheet: A list or sheet that contains the elements of a book or other work that differ from the style guide. A style sheet can also list frequently used element styles for easy reference when copy editing and proofreading.

subject-matter expert (SME): An expert in the subject matter of a textbook who can provide a peer review prior to publication. See peer review.

URL: A web address. URL is short for Uniform Resource Locator.

Versioning History page: A record placed in the back matter of a digital book where minor corrections and updates are noted.

verso: The back side of a page.

write for hire: An individual who is paid to write but does not own the copyright of the work. The copyright belongs to the individual or organization who hires the writer.

XML (Extensible Markup Languag): A markup language that defines a set of rules for encoding documents in a format that is both human-readable and machine-readable. An XML file is an editable, plain-text file that helps transfer content from one format to another. See HTML.



BCcampus Open Education. “Open Educational Resource Grant.” (accessed February 15, 2018).

“BCcampus to co-ordinate provincial open textbook project.” BCcampus. October 16, 2012. (accessed January 23, 2018).

Biswas-Diener, Robert. “You Can’t Sell Free, and Other OER Problems.” Open: The Philosophy and Practices that are Revolutionizing Education and Science, edited by Rajiv S. Jhangiani and Robert Biswas-Diener, 257-265. London: Ubiquity Press Ltd., 2017.

Canada. “13: Ownership of Copyright.” Copyright Act. (accessed December 13, 2017).

“CC0 1.0 Universal(CC0 1.0): Public Domain Dedication.” Creative Commons. (accessed August 2, 2017).

“CC0 FAQ.” Creative Commons. (accessed January 3, 2018).

“Chapter 1: Subject Matter and Scope of Copyright – 107. Limitation on exclusive rights: Fair use.” (accessed January 23, 2018).

“Choosing the Right File Format/Text Documents.” Wikibooks. Last revised July 26, 2017. (accessed August 17, 2017).

“citation.” Oxford Dictionary. (accessed February 6, 2018).

“Colophon (publishing).” Wikipedia. (accessed February 12, 2018).

“copyright.” Merriam-Webster. (accessed August 1, 2017).

Dupont, Jean-Sébastien and Guillaume Lavoie Ste-Marie. “Do you actually own the IP generated by your Canadian employees?” Smart & Biggar – Fetherstonehaugh. June 16, 2014. (accessed December 13, 2017).

“ethnocentrism.” (accessed December 11, 2017).

“Evaluating Information Sources.” UBC Library. (accessed February 2, 2018).

“Glossary of Intellectual Property Terms.” Government of Canada. (accessed November 16, 2017).

“A guide to copyright.” Government of Canada. (accessed November 16, 2017).

Hinchliff Pearson, Sarah. “Anatomy of a book: Part 1 – inspiration.” Made with Creative Commons, November 3, 2015. (accessed August 15, 2017).

“HTML.” Wikipedia. Last revised August 12, 2017. (accessed August 17, 2017).

Jhangiani, Rajiv, Rebecca Pitt, Christina Hendricks, Jessie Key, and Clint Lalonde. BCcampus Research Report: Exploring Faculty Use of Open Educational Resources at British Columbia Post-secondary Institutions. (Victoria, B.C.: BCcampus, 2016). (accessed August 1, 2017).

“Kurt Vonnegut Quotes.” Goodreads. (accessed August 11, 2017).

Lalonde, Clint. “Open Textbook Formats Explained.” BCcampus OpenEd. August 30, 2013. (accessed January 24, 2018).

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Versioning History

This page provides a record of edits and changes made to this book since its initial publication in the B.C. Open Textbook Collection. Whenever edits or updates are made in the text, we provide a record and description of those changes here. If the change is minor, the version number increases by 0.1. If the edits involve substantial updates, the version number increases to the next full number.

The files posted by this book always reflect the most recent version. If you find an error in this book, please fill out the Report an Open Textbook Error form [New Tab].

Version Date Change Affected Web Page
1.0 February 20, 2018 Added guide to B.C. Open Textbook Collection.
1.1 May 2, 2018 For all Open Textbook Network logo references, changed “Open Textbook Network” when referencing chapters to the guide title, “Authoring Open Textbooks.”
1.2 August 23, 2018 Correction: changed titles for contract templates to title-case. Appendix 4
1.3 September 25, 2018 Embedded “What are Creative Commons Licenses?” video Appendix 1