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Open Educational Resources Collective Publishing Workflow

Identify Improvements

Maintaining Your Open Textbook

Releasing your open textbook is an exciting milestone, but it’s not the end of the publishing process. To ensure your textbook remains a valuable resource, you’ll need to maintain, improve and update it on a regular basis. Otherwise, just as with commercial textbooks, it may become outdated, and stop being used and adopted.

You may assume your open textbook will be maintained by its users, but many open textbooks aren’t changed – at least the original versions – once they’ve been published. Instructors who adopt an open textbook might customise it for their own use and maintain a private copy, but the open community doesn’t benefit from these improvements.

The most successful textbooks – as in those with the highest adoption rates – are the ones that receive ongoing editorial attention from their authors, including:

  • paying attention to errors
  • noting potential improvements
  • promoting their book among colleagues.

Maintenance, improvements and updates can be based on:

  • reviewer and adopter feedback
  • shifts in the textbook’s discipline or subject area to remain responsive to changes in theory, discourse and practice.

Once you’ve published your open textbook, your focus should shift from creation to:

You’ll need to decide how your textbook will be maintained after release, including:

Maintenance tasks are usually prioritised based on:

  • their complexity
  • the resources you have available.

Developing a Maintenance Schedule for Your Open Textbook

Changes to your open textbook after release should be planned out in advance and scheduled for different times of the year, depending on their scope. For example:

  • Maintenance changes – small ongoing changes that are more about function than content (e.g. fixing typos and broken links) can be completed at any time and are the only type of revisions you should make during semester
  • Major updates – adding or replacing sections of content or the book itself in the middle of a semester can disrupt learning and teaching so you should plan these for breaks between teaching periods.

Developing a maintenance schedule for your open textbook can help you:

  • build ongoing maintenance into your project time line
  • track, assign and complete routine maintenance tasks
  • plan the release of new versions and editions.

The maintenance schedule for your textbook should include a process and timetable for all the tasks you’ll need to complete to keep your textbook relevant and current, including:

As you’re planning out these tasks and their time line, you’ll also need to consider who should make these changes and assign them to the right people

Open Textbook Maintenance Roles

Everyone invested in the value of your textbook has an incentive to contribute to maintaining it and keeping it up to date. Adopters are often motivated to help make changes since they benefit from improvements to the book.

It’s beneficial to draw on the expertise of your authoring and publishing teams, as well as your readers when maintaining and making improvements to your textbook. Some of the people who may be involved in identifying and making improvements:

  • Project managers – coordinate and notify teams about similar projects, make connections between new and current collaborators, oversee projects through to completion
  • Authors – implement changes, record them in the version history
  • Editors – prioritise work for future versions or editions, implement changes, record them in the version history
  • Adopters – assist with implementing changes, take charge of a spin-off project
  • New collaborators – assist with implementing changes, take charge of a spin-off project
  • Adapters – share improvements back to the original book, implement changes, lead new adaptation projects.

It’s important to set up clear communications pathways from the textbook and ancillaries so potential new collaborators can reach out. This will also ensure anyone interested in making suggestions or error reports or contributing content knows how to contact you.

Making Improvements and Additions to Your Open Textbook

Improvements and additions are significant, scheduled changes to content. These may include:

  • elements (e.g. ancillaries) that were planned but didn’t make it into the first release
  • suggestions from reviewers
  • proposals from adopters
  • ideas you or your authoring or publishing team came up with after release
  • disciplinary or thematic updates.

Improvements and additions – including planning, creating and releasing new versions and editions – are discussed in more detail in Manage Editions.

Adding Ancillary Materials to Your Open Textbook

One of the most common post-release additions to open textbooks are ancillary materials. Ancillaries can supplement your textbook’s content and make it more appealing to adopters. Lack of ancillary materials is one of the most frequently cited reasons instructors decide not to adopt an open textbook. Ancillaries can be:

  • question banks
  • problem sets and solutions
  • slide decks
  • student workbooks
  • other instructor materials.

You can develop ancillaries alongside your textbook or following your textbook’s release. Some instructors assign ancillary creation to their students, which is an example of open pedagogy.

H5P is a useful tool for creating ancillaries for open textbooks. If you’re using Pressbooks, Pressbooks includes a plugin for creating quizzes and interactive activities with H5P.

Adapting Your Open Textbook for Different Educational Contexts

In addition to revising or expanding your open textbook, you may want to expand your readership by adapting it for different educational contents. Common adaptations include:

  • translations into other languages
  • spelling conversions (e.g. from Australian to US English)
  • incorporating regionally or culturally specific content (e.g. adapting for use in another country or cultural context)
  • converting to new formats and media (e.g. creating an audiobook version of the text, a series of short videos summarising each unit or a poster series that creates visualisations of the content).

While adaptations mostly maintain consistency of the content, other variants like remixing can involve blending content from the book with other openly licensed content. For example, the Rebus Community’s Blueprint for Success in College and Career remixes sections from four other open textbooks – Foundations of Academic Success, A Different Road to College: A Guide for Transitioning Non-Traditional Students, How to Learn Like a Pro! and College Success.

Recording Version Histories for Your Open Textbook

You can inform readers of changes to your textbook by adding a version history to the back matter. This will serve as a record of changes made over the life of the book.

You don’t need to include every change in the version history (e.g. fixing typos and broken links), but larger changes should be recorded. This includes:

You can indicate new versions by point increments (e.g., from version 1.2 to version 1.3) and new editions by whole number increases (e.g., from edition 1 to edition 2).

For example:

This page provides a record of edits and changes made to this book since its initial publication. 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 edition number increases to the next whole number.

The files posted alongside this book always reflect the most recent version. If you find an error in this book, please let us know at [Email].

Version History
Version Date Change
1.0 [Day/ Month
Original book published
2.0 [Day/ Month/ Year]

[Describe and list changes. e.g. Second edition published, with updated book information and metadata. It includes the following additions:

  • list additions.]

Example version history templates:

Example version histories:


Adapted from:

Maintain the Book’ in Self-Publishing Guide by Lauri M. Aesoph, licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence.

Ancillaries’ in Open Textbook Publishing Orientation (PUB 101) by Open Education Network, licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence.

Improvements and Maintenance Summary’, ‘Improvements and Maintenance Overview’ and ‘Version History’ in The Rebus Guide to Publishing Open Textbooks (So Far) by Apurva Ashok and Zoe Wake Hyde, licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence.