February 17, 2020

Why Open Source Textbooks?

Why Open Source Textbooks?

I was recently asked by someone at my institution about my open source textbook, Rings with Inquiry. Specifically, they wondered why I thought it valuable to create resources like this. As I continue to work toward improving the current (preview) edition to be ready for Fall 2020, I thought it would be helpful to think through this question on this blog. We'll begin by defining our terms.

What is an open source textbook?

By open source textbook we mean a textbook whose source code is freely available to download. The authoring platform I've chosen for Rings with Inquiry is PreTeXt (which is itself open source), which creates beautiful mobile-responsive HTML output. Anyone with an internet connection can access the entire book. Another critical piece of an open source textbook is its license; the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license (CC BY-SA) v4.0 license I've adopted for Rings with Inquiry allows for any interested parties to download and modify the source code, and subsequently share it with others, so long as they maintain attribution for the original work and license their modified version in a manner compatible with the CC BY-SA 4.0.

Next time, we'll start exploring the benefits of these books, beginning with the benefits for students.