Posted in Books

Using WordPress to Develop Open Source Textbooks


Using WordPress to Develop “Open Source Textbooks”

Note: Starting to develop some thoughts regarding OST.

A little over a month ago, it occurred to me that using WordPress to develop and deliver an online “open source textbook” might be an interesting project. I’m a technician. I didn’t already have a body of work that I could channel into a WordPress site, so I went looking for an open source textbook that was already online. I found an example, “Intro to Sociology” by Ron Hammond and Paul Cheney and I asked for permission to use their content for my purposes. Ron was nice enough to say it was okay, as long as the outcome remained “free.”

Here is a link to the original online version of the “Intro to Sociology” textbook. You can compare this with the WordPress version of the same book. The WordPress version is not complete, but I think you can see that either version works successfully.

I think that developing a textbook in, or porting to, WordPress brings additional functionality to the finished product, and may even ease the development process.

Advantages in the Development Process

Advantages in the Delivery Process


  • Multiple authors can have access to the site.
  • Easy to create pages using MS Word 2007 and publish directly from there.
  • Create content via email, phone or WordPress interface.


  • Commenting opportunities easily available.
  • RSS feeds for various audiences.
  • Polling and other widgets provide additional functionality.
  • Mobile aware theme for delivery to smart phones, etc.
  • Can easily export/import book site into a copy of the site using generated XML file.


Developing a textbook for a publishing company provides a monetary incentive. But, I think it could be argued that developing an “open source textbook” either individually, or in collaboration, could be monetarily beneficial and/or could provide other incentives for faculty. E.g. publishing for tenure, …

What is the value of a textbook to the institution, when students go from paying $100 a copy to $5 per tome? As a student, would I not take a second look at an institution that could cut my book costs from thousands to hundreds?

What about maintaining quality of content? Are there not already faculty evaluation committees for reviewing textbooks?

If open source texts became the “rage,” and publishing company profits decreased, then printed textbooks would become more expensive. Would a thousand dollars for a single text be too expensive, if you couldn’t find an equivalent OST online?


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