Open textbooks are a kind of open educational resource (OER).
For wikipedia (May 2019), “An open textbook is a textbook licensed under an open copyright license, and made available online to be freely used by students, teachers and members of the public. Many open textbooks are distributed in either print, e-book, or audio formats that may be downloaded or purchased at little or no cost. Part of the broader open educational resources movement open textbooks increasingly are seen as a solution to challenges with traditionally published textbooks, such as access and affordability concerns.”
Open textbooks are most popular in the USA, because textbooks are required for most classes and add a lot to the cost of studying.
There is some research on the use of open educational resources and open textbooks in particular. For now, see the bibliography at @ukopentextbooks.
Most initiatives adopt some kind of creative commons license. The most popular is probably Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike where users are allowed to use it and to modify it for non-commercial purposes under the conditions that their public is allowed the same. Work distributed by institutions may also use Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives fairly often, i.e. the texts can used and redistributed non-commercially, but not altered.
Open textbooks can be created with any type of software, e.g. a word processor or a share online word processor. One variant is to use formatting tools such as DocBook, Latex or DITA. For DITA, there exist a number of online editing systems. However, editing structured text requires some training that academics are usually not willing to take
Since open textbooks are sometimes collaborative incremental efforts, various simpler book-on-demand technology also can be used, e.g. the Mediawiki collection extension in a private wiki or using wikibooks.
A third solution is offered by specialized online open textbook environments such as OpenStax where people can create HTML pages using an online editor that then can be bundled into books. “all content is built in a simple semantic HTML5 format rich with built-in accessibility features to ensure it can all be read by everyone. Also the OpenStax CNX toolset makes it easy for author to create and adapt content using a word processor similar to Google Docs or Word.” (retrieved May 5 2019 from https://cnx.org/about).
A forth solution are so-called publishing platforms that include writing tools, e.g. Pressbooks.
Below we list some software and environments other than word processors like Word, Libre Office or Google Docs.
- online tool based on wordpress
- output formats: PDF, Epub, Mobi, HTML, XML formats (which ones?), OpenDocument
- based on the GIT sofware development/sharing platform
- output formats: PDF, ePub, Mobi
- online collaborative writing tool based on LaTex
Open Monograph Press
- Quote: an open source software platform for managing the editorial workflow required to see monographs, edited volumes and, scholarly editions through internal and external review, editing, cataloguing, production, and publication.
- Quote: Scalar is a free, open source authoring and publishing platform that’s designed to make it easy for authors to write long-form, born-digital scholarship online.
- HTML5-based online editing, assembling and publishing tool
Resources and tutorials