What is an open textbook?

Traditionally published textbooks are produced under closed copyright, meaning they cannot be shared, re-used, or re-purposed. The idea of creating an entire textbook might be an overwhelming. Textbooks do require time for writing, editing, and publishing and will require a lot of investment.

However, Books4Languages textbooks are often created under an open copyright license, and made available online to be used freely by students, teachers, and members of the public, that allows others to reuse it, download and revise it, remix it and redistribute it which can be a starting place to developing your own unique text and it is publicly available online free of charge.

In addition to saving students money, Anything and everything in an open textbook can be changed as long as the conditions of the open license are met. The modifications or changes you make can be fairly minor or major depending on what you need to do to make the book work for you. That is the beauty and power of open textbooks. You are in charge of the resource. You have been given permission to change it ahead of time by the original author.

In our collections of open textbooks and other OERs, we do our best to adhere to the five Rs of open education as defined by David Wiley. Please, read our Institutional OER Policy for more information.

Ideas for Adaptation

The term “adaptation” is commonly used to describe the process of making changes to an existing work. Though we can also replace “adapt” with revise, modify, alter, customize, or other synonym that describes the act of making a change. Rather than starting off on your own textbook from scratch, you can use an existing textbook as the basis for your project.

There are many different ways of adapting a textbook. For example, in an open textbook one may add in examples more relevant to one’s own context or the topic of a course, or embedded slides, videos, or other resources. Maybe you find a textbook that is pretty good, but could be stronger with the addition of case studies, or maybe the case studies could use your school perspective or can be revised to be better contextualized to one’s own teaching. Those would make great open textbook adaptations. Note from the licensing information for this book that one must clarify in such cases that the book is an adaptation. Here are some commons forms of adaptation:


  • Material contributed by students or material suggested by students
  • Media or links to other resources
  • Textboxes with learning objectives, exercises, key takeaways, or supplemental information


  • Correcting errors or inaccuracies
  • Updating the book with current information


  • Reordering
  • Adjusting for a different grade or course level
  • Translating the material into another language
  • Meeting a cultural, regional, or national preference

Improving Learning, Accessibility & Inclusivity

  • Addressing a particular teaching style or learning style
  • Addressing diversity needs
  • Making the material more accessible for people with disabilities


  • If you plan to use one or more books (or chapters), we’d love to hear about it! Please let us know on our adoption form.
  • If you plan on translating, adapting or remixing the book, or parts of the book, please let us know in the translation or adaptation form and be one of our contributors.
  • See the Licensing & Attribution for more information on what the open license on this book allows, and how to properly attribute the work when reusing, redistributing or adapting. And the TextBook-Specific eligibility requirements for more information on what type of TextBooks Books4Languages offers.

Adapted from The University of British Columbia’ What is an Open Open Textbook Adaptation Toolkit.

Adapted from Christina Hendricks’ What is an Open Textbook



The Books4Languages is a collaborative projects, with people from all over the world bringing their skills and interests to join in the compilation and dissemination of knowledge to everyone, everywhere.