Saylor Academy hosted textbooks now in HTML and editable by anybody

Not by our own intention, our Bookshelf page is one of the most popular single pages on our site. Nor are we surprised — we host over 100 full-length textbooks, many of which cover 100- and 200-level undergraduate courses in popular disciplines like business, psychology, and communication.

For over two years, we primarily offered two options for viewing the texts: PDF and DOCx. The former is easy to share and download but not easy to edit or read on small screens; the latter is easy to edit but not a pleasure to read on any screen. Both could take some time to download, even on a pretty robust network connection. Additionally, the books have been difficult to properly cite by those using them in course syllabi, academic papers, etc.

With the generous cooperation of Andy Schmitz and work over the past weeks by our own staff member, Tanner, the problems above are effectively resolved. We now host HTML versions of nearly all the books. These are fast to load, easy to read on large and small screens, and contain a lovely licensing and citation page (example).

These books solve another problem, as well. Correcting errors and making other updates to the PDF files is prohibitively difficult for a variety of reasons. Now, the HTML books are editable by absolutely anyone. Each book is based on its own repository at Saylor Academy’s GitHub account. Anyone with a free GitHub account can “fork” one of the book repositories, make edits, and make a “pull request” for their improvements to be added to the Saylor-hosted book.

Putting these books on GitHub helps to reduce the maintenance burden for our small staff and extends a greater possibility of “ownership” not only to our own communities, but to others as well. It is a model we intend to use for our legacy courses as well and a crucial step toward making Saylor Academy an ever more collaborative, creative endeavor.

(At first acquaintance, GitHub can be intimidating. We will have a post soon to make a proper introduction!)

Let us know your thoughts and questions in the comments below!


Image: “Ebook” icon is by Sandor Szabo from the Noun Project | CC BY 3.0

2 thoughts on “Saylor Academy hosted textbooks now in HTML and editable by anybody

  1. March 27, 2015

    Paul Morris Reply

    This is a very positive move and should at least attract less controversy than some other recent changes. I hope you don’t find yourselves swamped with pull requests!

  2. May 12, 2015

    Rob Farrow Reply

    I think this is a great idea and would be interested to hear how it affects review of materials shared in this way.

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