Since the Open Education Network (OEN) began supporting open textbook publishing five years ago, we’ve been inspired by the many ways that our members make it happen. Publishing an open textbook requires a lot of work! And, as we’ve seen in the exponential growth of the Open Textbook Library, that work is happening. 

The OEN supports higher education in the development, publishing and distribution of open textbooks through community, programs and services. Guiding our efforts is our goal to make higher education more equitable for students. That translates into creating multiple pathways to support our members in publishing open textbooks. We’ve done that by being both innovative and responsive, and engaging with open education practitioners regularly. 

Of course, change is constant! So let’s take a look at where we’ve been and where we’re going.

Where we’ve been

While sometimes it’s tempting to equate publishing with a tool or platform, it’s a human process. That’s why we focus on how we can support people doing the work (which is fitting since one of our guiding principles is our shared humanity). We’ve looked to the community to share their experiences and needs with us, and created programs based on what we’ve heard. 

Here are some highlights of what we’ve accomplished together in the last five years:

  • Launched the Publishing Cooperative
  • Created Pub101 and hosted three cohorts
  • Designed and shared guides, curricula and templates
  • Partnered with Pressbooks to offer Sandbox access and member discounts
  • Partnered with the Rebus Community to offer monthly Office Hours
  • Offered webinars and other professional development opportunities, including in partnership with the Library Publishing Coalition
  • Partnered with Scribe, a publishing services provider to offer editorial services
  • Grown the Open Textbook Library to include nearly 1,000 records
  • Developed Open Textbook Library features to highlight member publishing programs
  • Created a variety of Open Textbook Library discovery methods, including MARC records
  • Built communication channels and audiences for promoting open textbooks

More details are available on our website

Collectively, these accomplishments reflect our desire to support as many publishing models as possible, with a focus on developing resources for the librarians who typically manage these programs. We are thankful for the many members who have informed program development through their feedback and shared resources. We’re also thankful for our partners and their collaborative spirit, and look forward to continuing to work with them. 

Considering context

Stepping back from these accomplishments for a moment, the last five years have been tumultuous and traumatic, heightening existing disparities in our society, including in education. This reality has intensified our commitment to finding new ways to support more people in implementing local change.

We’ve also changed organizationally. The Open Education Network’s membership is more diverse than it was five years ago, representing more than 1,500 campuses in the U.S., Canada and Australia. This growth represents a collective momentum to create resources and practices that make higher education more equitable, and we’re excited to work together towards this goal. 

Anyone who wants to publish

So far, our focus has been on supporting librarians and others who work with faculty to create open textbooks. Yet this team model isn’t tenable at many institutions, especially those that are underfunded, understaffed and overcommitted. So while there may be faculty interest in writing an open textbook, there may not be sufficient resources to support that process. That’s why we’re investigating how to support faculty directly. 

That leads us to our vision: We aspire to support anyone who wants to publish an open textbook. This vision is guiding our development of new pathways and programs, and towards what we hope is a more equitable publishing landscape that includes more voices.

New pathways

Since the beginning, we’ve recognized a broad definition of publishing: from making a file openly available to providing developmental editing and design services to everything in between. In addition, publishing takes place in a variety of locations and contexts, from community colleges to private liberal arts institutions to R1 universities to library consortia. Authors may work independently, with students, supported by grant programs or editorial teams. With all of this programmatic diversity in mind, we’re introducing new programs and pathways.

Here are some highlights of what we’re going to do in the next 1-2 years:

  • Pilot a Manifold instance with a member group
  • Explore how to create and sustain an Editoria instance
  • Release a textbook building tool to support book planning and consistent structure
  • Transition Pub101 to a community-led curriculum and experience
  • Create faculty publishing workshops and user communities

This is not an inclusive list, as we’re still working on our strategic planning process. However, we are committed to these new initiatives in addition to our existing programs and partnerships. 

As a community

No matter where the future takes us, our community will always be at the heart of our efforts. It’s their generous spirit that has created such growth and success in open education in such a short time. We look forward to continuing to work together to create a more equitable future.

Karen Lauritsen is the Publishing Director with the Open Education Network, where she develops programs and services to support the publishing and distribution of open textbooks.