2 About open textbooks

Why create open textbooks?

Creating open textbooks built in harmony with Western Sydney University’s values can give our students a truly unique educational experience. By making them open for use by anyone in the world, we can help further Western’s reputation as a global citizen.

For further information about using Western Open Books, browse the following resources:

What are open textbooks?

An open textbook is a textbook licensed under an open copyright licence and made available online to be used freely by students, teachers, and members of the public.

Open textbooks:

  • are created by educators;
  • are reviewed by educators;
  • contribute to successful learning outcomes.

Scholarly research that is published in open access is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions (although it does require that proper attribution of works be given to authors)” [1].

What makes open textbooks different from traditional textbooks?

Traditionally published textbooks are produced under closed copyright, meaning they cannot be shared, re-used, or re-purposed. They are usually costly (hundreds of dollars each), with new editions published frequently, rendering texts that are only a year or two old out of date. Digital editions or e-textbooks from commercial publishers, though slightly less expensive, are sold with digital rights management software, which means the books only appear on a student’s e-reader for a short period of time (4-6 months), preventing them from keeping the book for future reference or re-selling it to their fellow students.

In contrast to traditional textbooks, openly licensed textbooks allow academic staff to use any portion of a textbook in their courses without requiring students to purchase an entire book or make the content of a given textbook more pedagogically appropriate for their specific educational context. The open licensing of open textbooks allows for collaborations on and improvements to textbooks from contributors around the world.

When an instructor uses an open textbook as assigned reading, students have the option to access the digital edition for free through a website or via download to e-readers or tablets. Students can purchase a low-cost paper copy via print-on-demand services.


Video: Why use open textbooks? Benefits for students from BCcampus on Vimeo.


Education is much more than the textbooks used to educate students. The quality of instruction, the entire post-secondary experience, and the learning environment all contribute to education. Post-secondary institutions do not ‘compete’ on the content of their textbooks or courses – rather, an institution provides unique educational experiences. That is what makes a student choose one institution over another. Open textbooks can provide these unique educational experiences by adapting and personalising content to meet learners’ needs.


Source: Adapted from “Open Textbook FAQ,” BCcampus Open Textbook Project, CC BY 4.0

  1. “Open Access,” Canadian Association of Research Libraries


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Western Open Books Quick Start Guide Copyright © 2022 by Lucy Walton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book