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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.

In addition to cost to students, one of the biggest advantages of choosing an open textbook is it gives faculty the legal right to add to, adapt, or delete the content of the textbook to fit their specific course without obtaining permission from the copyright holder. This is possible because the copyright holder has already granted permission by releasing their work using an open — or Creative Commons — license. This type of license gives users permission to use and reuse, share, copy, retain and modify the textbook without consulting the author.

Reasons to Adapt an Open Textbook

One of the benefits of using an openly licensed textbook or other educational resource is that you are free to adapt it to fit your needs. In other words, you can adjust the educational resources to fit your course curriculum, not the other way around. Other reasons for revising an existing open work might be to:

  1. Address a particular teaching style or learning style
  2. Adjust for a different grade or course level
  3. Adapt for a different discipline
  4. Accommodate a different learning environment
  5. Address diversity needs
  6. Meet a cultural preference
  7. Meet a regional or national preference
  8. Address a school, district, or institution’s standardized curriculum
  9. Make the material more accessible for people with disabilities
  10. Add material contributed by students or material suggested by students
  11. Translate the material into another language
  12. Correct errors or inaccuracies
  13. Update the book with current information
  14. Add more media or links to other resources
  15. Use only a portion of the book for a course

What Are the Changes

What will you change?

Adapting or changing an existing open textbook doesn’t need to be onerous. The changes you make can be simple such as:

  • Changing the title of the book, some or all of its chapters or chapter sections
  • Adding one or two new images
  • Removing a chapter that isn’t pertinent to your course
  • Removing a chapter to be used, leaving the rest of the book behind

Sometimes, an adaptation might require more than a few simple changes. For example:

  • A significant number of chapters might be removed, leaving behind just the ones that fit the course curriculum.
  • Chapters might be reordered to more accurately fit the order in which material is presented in a course.

It might be necessary to add material from other open textbooks or open educational resources to the open textbook you are adapting. You can find free images here:

Maybe you decide to write new material to fill in the gaps of an existing textbook such as new examples or exercises. (If you do this and plan to release the finished work as an open textbook, remember that your new work will be included under this license.)

Will it be difficult?

How easy or difficult this will be depends on a number of factors, including;

  • How much content do you wish to change?
  • Do you want to remove chapters, or rewrite entire chapters of content?
  • How comfortable are you with using technology and creating content?

Keep a record of changes and additions

Even if the new material you create is released under an open license, as the author, you will receive attribution for your contribution.

As you edit and make changes (text and images) and/or add new material, such as a chapter or section within a chapter, keep a list so these additions/changes:

  • Can be included as part of the Copyright Notice
  • Can be accurately attributed to you, the author

Minor changes, such as fixing grammatical or spelling mistakes, don’t need to be documented.

If you add material from another openly licensed work to your adaptation, especially text, record the source and where it is used in your adapted version. This information is needed for the wording and placement of each attribution statement required for each Creative Commons licensed work you use. For more information, see Attribution Statements.

Changing images: add new ones or remove old ones

With an openly licensed resource, you are welcome to remove images that don’t fit your needs or you can add new ones. You are also permitted to edit existing images. (Check the license of the image you plan to change to ensure that its permissions fit your intended change.)

For more information on:

Use a copy editor and subject-matter expert

Even the best author benefits from the keen eyes of a copy editor. This individual looks at your work with fresh eyes and can provide feedback on grammar, spelling, readability, clarity, and consistency.

A subject matter expert (SME) — presumably a colleague or other individual who is an expert on the topic you’re writing about — can provide suggestions about the content. It is best that the SME reviews your work before the copy editor.

One final step is to have a copy editor (preferably different than the one who copy edits your work) proof read the final draft.

Get involved!

Our TextBooks are an ongoing project and will be updated as needed. If you would like to customize — or adapt — an open textbook so that it better fits your needs in the classroom and elsewhere, please let us know by using the Open TextBook adaptation form.


The definitions for the various terms used to describe adoption statistics:


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.


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.


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


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.


Our TextBooks are an ongoing project and will be updated as needed. If you would like to customize — or adapt — an open textbook so that it better fits your needs in the classroom and elsewhere, please let us know by using the Open TextBook adaptation form.