Open Textbooks followup – Where to find good ones?

So I really appreciate the folks who spent the time offering links to what they felt where the best Open Textbooks. In addition to some twitter replies and emails I received the following submissions through the Google form.

These are really valuable, but I also feel a bit sheepish, like I shouted out for feedback before doing enough due dilligence myself (it’s ok, I can forgive myself if you can, I no longer can keep track of the number of balls in the air, plates spinning, irons in the fire or whatever metaphor for headswimming busy-ness you might care to choose.)

Because when I did some digging of my own, I found an enormous amount of helpful material already being produced by people focused in specifically on Open Textbooks (I am but a Johnny-come-lately.) So to make amends, I thought I’d share some of what I’ve found, lbeit not overly digested or analysed. Share early and often, right?

The first thing I found quite useful were two sites that laid out some criteria for assessing Open Textbooks. So from a Community College Open Textbook Collaborative page on Conexions I found the following criteria:

  • Quality of content, literary merit and format
  • Timeliness
  • Favorable reviews
  • Permanence/lasting value
  • Authority: author
  • Scope
  • Physical quality
  • Format: print, CD-ROM, online, etc.
  • reading level

while from the Open Textbook project at OER Commons I found this set of review criteria:

  • Clarity of course materials
  • Absence of Content errors
  • Appropriateness of course materials
  • Interface
  • Content usefulness
  • Consistency of course materials
  • Suggested changes
  • Exemplary features

as well as

  • Cultural relevance
  • Reading level
  • Readability in terms of logic and flow
  • Accuracy
  • Modularity (or the ability to take apart, mash up and remix the content)
  • Universal accessibility (thus permitting all populations – no matter the physical constraint – to access content)
  • Color printing and graphics as an available option, in all print materials
  • Meet as many specific course articulation requirements as possible
  • Ability to transport content to modalities other than print (cell phones, and other portable devices, for example)
  • Content should be as interoperable on as many platforms as possible
  • How does this open textbook compare with the best commercial textbook available in my discipline, and/or the commercially published textbook that I am using for my course.

These are all for me useful starting points in identifying “quality” Open Textbooks, a job made easier by groups like the Community College Open Textbook Collaborative providing this list of “endorsed” textbook content from the Connexions site, as well as more detailed Reviews on their own site. The Assayer is another site that is attempting to provide reviews of ‘Open Textbooks’ (understood a bit more loosely, hence the scare quotes.)

The other thing that should have been obvious to me but that only became clear as I began to dig into this a bit deeper,is that in addition to providing cheaper textbooks, we can do a service to students by pointing them to free copies of original source texts that are studied in many courses, especially in the humanities. So in addition to the VAST amounts of academic content being freed by the likes of the Open Content Alliance, and the trailblazing work by the pioneering Gutenberg Project, we can now look for (and suggest to students) free eBooks and digital versions from sites like feedbooks, manybooks, and more!

This is just the start of this for me, so expect more regularly over the next year, but I wanted to give back some of what I am finding, especially since I should have done more of this to begin with. – SWL

Open Textbooks followup – Where to find good ones?

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