5 Step 3: Assess Editability

Now that you’ve identified the format type of the open textbook you’d like to edit, you can assess the editability of that format. This table shows general levels of editability for common file types and platforms found in the Open Textbook Library. Each format type in the table below is explored in further detail in our Format Guides.


How Editable?



PDF Minor changes are easy. Easy to move sections and pages. Impossible to repaginate or make major changes. Make only minor changes, obtain
native file, use Microsoft Word,
or copy/paste into another format.
Moving pages around requires Adobe Acrobat Pro DC ($).
HTML Highly editable. Requires comfort with software tools and markup language. Requires HTML expertise and/or software. Requires coding expertise or
Adobe Dreamweaver ($).
EPUB Highly editable. Requires comfort
with software tools.
Edit as EPUB. Pressbooks (see below), calibre (no cost); Sigil (no cost). XML-based format.
MOBI (.AZW3) Requires conversion to other format. Highly editable. Requires comfort with software. (See EPUB) Convert into EPUB to edit. (See EPUB) Many online tools;
(See EPUB)
Highly editable. Requires access to and comfort with Pressbooks platform. Obtain .WXR file. Edit in Pressbooks or export and edit as EPUB. Requires access to Pressbooks. Access and support via Open Textbook Network;  free account also available.
OpenStax Editable in OpenStax Connexions Legacy Editor. Legacy Editor is best for minor changes, like making a custom edition with selected chapters of a larger work. Not recommended for a major edit or rewrite. Requires Connexions Legacy Editor (no cost).

Consult the Format Guides for more details.


If you plan to modify a textbook that includes photographs, drawings, maps, graphs, diagrams, charts, or other visual content, there may be additional technical issues. A few tips:

  • If you want to add a photograph, it needs to be suitable for reproduction. Photos found on the web are often low resolution (72 dots per inch [dpi]), which makes them appear fuzzy when reproduced in print. The industry standard is 300 dpi (minimum).
  • Maps are often generated using GIS technology and programs such as Adobe Illustrator, Google Map Maker, or Adobe FreeHand. Modifying maps will be difficult without the original application files (e.g., EPS files). If you do not have access to these files, it might be necessary to start from scratch.
  • Graphs, charts, and other data-based figures are often generated from spreadsheet programs such as Microsoft Excel and then stylized for publication using Illustrator or another graphics editing software. As with maps, editing such figures may be difficult without access to the original application files.

Mathematical Characters or Diacritical Marks (LaTeX and Beyond)

Textbooks containing mathematical or scientific notation, non-roman alphabets, or diacritic language characters may require specific editing software.

  • If your subject material includes mathematics, chemical symbols, or scientific notation, then LaTeX may be embedded within your main file. You may need editing software that supports LaTeX or MathML, such as TeXnicCenter (Windows), SageMath (open source), ShareLaTeX (online), or Overleaf (online). If you’re not already a LaTeX user, you may want to locate a local LaTeX user community through your mathematics department or center for teaching and learning.
  • If your subject matter includes non-latin characters or characters with diacritical marks, it may require using Unicode. It may also help to work with someone experienced in multilingual typesetting, and there are many services available online. For more information: Source Forge or Wikibooks.


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Modifying an Open Textbook: What You Need to Know Copyright © 2016 by Open Education Network is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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