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Open Textbooks For Teaching

How to find, adapt, or author open licenced textbooks for use in teaching

Introduction To
Open Textbooks


Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay


Show me an example of a good quality Open Textbook!

As a teacher you are concerned with providing your students with a good quality textbook.

With many potential purchases we would like to ‘try-before-buy’, and one of the most useful things about Open Textbooks is that you can look them over in detail before deciding.

This Open Textbook, “Australian Politics and Policy” is an example of:

  • a geographically local textbook
  • a recent textbook with recent revisions
  • a textbook from a reputable source
  • a textbook that has been peer reviewed
  • a textbook that is unique in having two editions
    • one for undergraduates
    • one for later year undergraduates and Master’s students


cover of Australian Politics and Policy

Cover image of Australian Politics and Policy from the Sydney University Press


A Review Of The Effectiveness & Perceptions Of Open Educational Resources As Compared To Textbooks

'This video summarises the available research synthesised in Hilton, J. (2016) Open educational resources and college textbook choices: a review of research on efficacy and perceptions'.

Video 4:40

How can I find good quality Open Textbooks in my discipline area?

Globally there are more than a dozen websites that offer Open Textbooks.

These sites may or may not include the many universities across the world with their own open publishing press.

Check the Adopting Open Textbooks page of this guide for a list of Open Textbooks by discipline for list of Open Educational Resource publishers for that area.

How do I know if an Open Textbook is any good?

Any teaching resource, whether from a 'traditional publisher' or an Open Textbook, should be evaluated prior to selection and textbooks, traditional or Open, are no different.

Individual teachers may have their own method of evaluating a textbook, and should use that method with the following additional considerations.

  • Accessibility: Is the Open Textbook available in additional formats? If there is audio or video embedded and do those resources have transcripts available?
  • Interactivity: Are there opportunities for active learning and participation, or for students to test their understanding?
  • Licencing: Does the licence allow for educational reuse of the materials?

If you don’t have a set method for evaluating a textbook, refer to the page on this guide on Adopting Open Textbooks for a set of criteria for Evaluating Open Textbooks.


Is there some special way I should use an Open Textbook?

If you select an Open Textbook as your set text, it could be used in any way traditional textbooks are used.
Many of the Creative Commons licences assigned to Open Textbooks are permissive, and will allow editing and additions to the Open Textbook such as:

If you are time-poor and not yet ready to create an Open Textbook they can be:

  • used as supplementary reading materials, or
  • activities can be adopted or adapted for use in your lessons.

Make sure you add any Open Textbooks to Course Readings to monitor student usage and link maintenance