How to Make an Open Educational Resource Textbook with Josh Korenblat (Art/ Graphic Design), Thurs. Dec. 2, 2:00 – 3:30 p.m.

How can you make your own Open Educational Resource (OER) book? What resources are available to do so for print books that we can read online or on our desktop computer? In this presentation and workshop, I’ll discuss the philosophy and practice of OER and low-cost books for college classrooms. We’ll look at curated examples of these books. We’ll also delve into the tools that designers and authors use to make them. Our goal would be to identify tools and platforms that you could use, too.

One of these examples will be a project I’ve been co-leading, Right Place, Right Time, a memoir authored by National Geographic Magazine photojournalist Ted Spiegel. Our goal is to share Ted’s insight into making storytelling photos, gained from 65 years of photojournalism. I’ll show our strategies and plans for making this book an OER or low-cost resource in photojournalism and related courses. We’ll also look at what’s available through the SUNY system for OER support.

Josh Korenblat and Ted Spiegel’s Right Place, Right Time:

I’d be happy to continue this conversation with you, help with the DIY approach, or answer questions that went unanswered (or pursue the answer too). I’m invested in understanding how to make books an inclusive learning experience, and I think OER offers so much promise.
What we discussed


OER is about making a textbook shareable and remixable—and free for students. Because it’s digital and has fewer print constraints, an OER textbook opens up the opportunity to go beyond sequential coverage: to uncover insights, for it to be used as a resource that can include primary documents, and other media that conventional textbooks might not include. This can enrich the experience, where a conventional textbook might flatten the experience through summaries.
An OER textbook can also be designed so the student can transfer, apply, and perform based on stories or ideas from the textbook. That’s because it can be multimodal, offering interactive moments, videos, and sound.
In summary, we have DIY approaches to making your textbook, using tools such as Adobe Create Suite (with LinkedIn Learning support), and popular ‘low learning curve platforms’ like Pressbooks (a WordPress platform), Pub Pub, and Scalar. We also have platforms you can use directly from SUNY.
  • Adobe Indesign can output a single file to a PDF book, an online book that you can embed on a website, and a variety of Ebook formats, for tablets, the Kindle, and Apple iBooks (which also has its proprietary platform you can use to make a book…beautiful interactives are possible, but the tradeoff is the platform limits reach)
    • I neglected to mention there’s a revolution in free fonts: Google Fonts. These work for printed books and online.
    • Free images are often taken from Creative Commons.
  • If you want a digital book that can be ordered as a print book online, two popular platforms are Bookbaby and Blurb. SUNY Press is experimenting with this approach too: a digital book where people can order a print book as needed. (The cost of printing can be prohibitive for a book like the one I’m working on unless we can reduce it from 300 pages to around 180 pages.)
  • Pressbooks is great if you want to make a collaborative book with colleagues and students. Have each team write a chapter, publish it like you would a WordPress / Hawksites blog post, and then you can experience the final product as an online book or downloadable PDF.
  • Pub Pub is a similar platform to Pressbooks, but it has more of a Google Docs experience to it. It also facilitates a variety of reader actions that make the book more interactive. MIT Press is making many of its books Open Access using Pub Pub.
  • Scalar is the best platform for rich multimedia: it includes audio, video, and even the ability to embed interactive experiences and data visualizations.
SUNY OER has partnered with Lumen to offer a platform to make your own OER book or remix an existing one from their library. Lumen is designed to follow best practices for digital learning.
You can even make the book interactive with quizzes and other modalities.
This can save a lot of time. In addition, this gives you support as Lumen offers it.
It seems this platform would be a great place to begin your research into making your own book unless there’s a compelling benefit to the DIY approach.
  • Chrissy O’Grady and Rachel Rigolino did a past presentation, which is shared in the slide deck. It has a lot of useful information.
  • The OER Library Guide has the information you need to look up Creative Commons copyright licenses. There are different levels of protection or openness that you can choose. Copyrights are typically pretty straightforward to navigate and apply. 
  • The Library Guide also provides rubrics and additional resources for OER.
  • There are grants available to support OER work, though SUNY, as Sarah shared in the chat.
  • Digital Humanities (DH) is a field that’s interested in OER work, so if you’re looking to have the work itself count as scholarship, I’ve found DH conferences welcome you sharing this work.