A policy for open e-textbook publishing systems encompasses relevant concepts that are foundational to the research. The discourse in the following section aims to delineate key terms used in this study which can have varying denotations and connotations. Since the terms are interlinked, terms qualify proceeding terms, such as ‘open’ and ‘e-textbooks’ that are critical to the delineation of entities for the research from other kinds of publishing artifacts, such as journals and print matter.
The following terms from – An exploration of Internet open e-textbook publishing systems for post-secondary education in Alberta – are delineated to position the research inquiry within the terms:
Internet and online
e-textbook publishing systems
post-secondary education in Alberta
Exploration. My research is a preliminary inquiry using an exploratory design (Labaree, 2020) to gain insights and familiarity with the state of policy for open e-textbook publishing systems in the context of a post-secondary education environ. The e-literature collection on open e-textbook publishing systems and related policy providea a citation database that is foundational to the topic area and future policy development for open e-textbooks. The research citation database is included as a compressed file as part of the open online research website at https://mem-mem.com/research/wp-content/uploads/sites/20/2021/07/My-Library.rdf_.zip .
Stebbins (2001, p. 2) defined exploration from the perspective of examining “a thing or idea for diagnostic purposes, to search it systematically for something.” Stebbins denotation of ‘exploration’ and an agile approach (Beck et al., 2001; Clark, 2015; Twidale & Hansen, 2019) appropriately describes the research inquiry position in search of a dedicated policy for online open e-textbook publishing in post-secondary education.
Internet and Online. The terms Internet and online are often used synonymously in the literature. However, the term ‘online’ is broader in scope for entities “connected to, served by, or available through a system and especially a computer or telecommunications system (such as the Internet)” (Definition of Online, n.d.). The term Internet is more specific in denoting an “internetwork” (Cerf et al., 1974), involving a “global system of interconnected computer networks that uses the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to communicate between networks and devices” (“Internet,” 2021). The research inquiry is focused on open e-textbook publishing by academic institutions that is conducted synchronously on the Internet, rather than on asynchronous library sites with typically static documents (i.e., repositories). This research study uses the terms Internet and online interchangeably and considers them to be synonymous due to the prevalence of both terms in literature discussing modern digital telecommunications.
Open. The term ‘open’ denotation and connotations vary, particularly with respect to the object in question, such as access, computer source-code, and electronic literature. This exploration is focused on ‘open’ entities in the context of e-textbook publishing systems within academic environs. The term ‘open’ when applied to digital entities has varying possible interpretations in praxis, from conditional to unconditional openness. Merriam-Webster (Definition of Open, n.d.) considers ‘open’ as “having no enclosing or confining barrier.” Thus a quality of an ‘open’ e-textbook publishing system is the ability to be barrier free (i.e., unlimited access). Hence, accessibility is a quality associated with an e-textbook entity that is identified as ‘open’ on the Internet.
Open access of scholarly works have been expressed by the following widely accepted Budapest Open Access Initiative:
By “open access” to this [research] literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution and the only role for copyright in this domain should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited (Read the Budapest Open Access Initiative, 2002).
The emphases on removal of barriers in a digital environ are important features of open access that contribute to the freedom of information and knowledge for stakeholders within educational environs. The Budapest Open Access Initiative addresses access to literature without elucidating further on modification or remixing content; whereas Creative Commons licensing explicitly considers modifications or remixing of content (About the Licenses, 2016).
Open access of scholarly works is a broad area encompassing domains such as copyright, educational resources, and e-textbooks. The copyright domain has been addressed through initiatives such as, public domain (Welcome to the Public Domain, 2013),open-source (History of the OSI, 2018), and Creative Commons licensing (About the Licenses, 2016). The Creative Commons licensing framework stratifies the level of freedoms for the copyright holder’s open access works. Creative Commons licensing conditions extends the Budapest Open Access Initiative’s access and redistribution, ranging from completely open public domain level to restrictive non adaptive work with a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license (i.e., use without modification). Although Creative Commons aims to provide a legal construct within open access, licensing complexities and disclaimer of all liabilities may lead to confusion, copyright infringements, and no legal protection for copyright holders. The Drauglis v. Kappa Map Grp., LLC, case (Butler, 2015) exemplifies Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons (1968) situation where free and open published content in the public commons is predated by commercial interests due to misunderstandings in the application of Creative Commons licensing. However, copyright is typically time dependent and becomes a moot point after copyright expiry (“Duration of Copyright in Canada,” 2019). However, it is unclear as to whether Creative Commons licensing entity would have an expiration. Thus, issues related to open access may contribute toward uncertainty in open e-textbook publishing system initiatives; thereby further supporting the traditional commercial publishing paradigm.
According to Anderson (2013), there are a variety of motivations for interest in open access, including local/global citizenry science, open science, and access. Anderson’s open access motivations provides a perspective on possible stakeholders’ position within open e-textbook publishing systems.
In addition to organizational constructs, a policy for open e-textbook publishing systems may benefit from consideration of human nature with respect to motivations and stakeholders. Therefore, external and internal factors of humans with respect to open access are essential to an open philosophy (Balter, 2017).
The denotation and connotation of ‘free’ and ‘open’ with respect to e-textbook publishing systems are important considerations in the formulation of a relevant policy. According to Stallman (2019), ‘free’ is denoted as the ways users interact with software without restrictions, juxtaposed to the connotation of ‘free’ as zero cost. In example, Stallman emphasizes that depending on open-source software licensing there could be a cost for the enduser. Further complications arise in that ‘open’ source entities will exist some where on the Internet and be freely accessible in perpetuity (Opensource.org, 2007).
The connotations of free and open as zero cost, aligns with the commodification of information and knowledge. Bates (2015) argues that some aspects of knowledge are changing due to commercialization. Discourse on the economic value of open-source software and open e-textbooks in education, recognizes commodification of information and knowledge, rather than promoting information and knowledge as a shared free and open access artefacts for the benefit of humanity (Bliss et al., 2013; Ozdemir, 2018; Wiley et al., n.d., 2012; Williams van Rooij, 2007). Free and open approaches challenge the capitalist paradigm of information and knowledge toward inclusivity, rather than exclusivity for the elites.
Free and open-source software (FOSS) exemplifies ways to share academic artefacts by bridging the philosophical differences between the pragmatism of open-source and social conscience of free software with the following core ideals (Free and Open-Source Software, 2019; What Is Free Software?, 2019):
The freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose.
The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish; access to the source code is a precondition for this.
The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help others.
The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others; access to the source code is a precondition for this.
The FOSS core freedoms offer emancipatory values for a policy on open e-textbook publishing systems. In example, free and open-source software is a technological foundation of any open e-textbook publishing system, congruent with the production of free and open e-textbooks for the global Internet community.
My research positions ‘open’ in the broadest context that supports online open e-textbook publishing systems and promotes freedom of data, information, and knowledge. For the purposes of my inquiry, the meaning of ‘open’ recognizes a continuum from conditional to unconditional characteristics and values. However, this research focus is toward the unconditional side of the ‘open’ continuum (i.e., barrier free access to digital information and knowledge), while respecting authorship, in creation of a policy with greater potential to empower humanity.
Open e-Textbooks. The digital file output of open e-textbook publishing systems is the open e-textbook. The terms ‘open textbook’ can be ambiguous in meaning a printed medium or digital content. Contextual ambiguities in the literature may occur in distinguishing between an ‘open textbook’ as a digital artefact rather than print. In example, Moore and Butcher’s Guide to Developing Open Textbooks (2016), the focus is largely from a digital context, with only a brief connection made between ‘digital’ and ‘open e-textbooks’ (2016, p. 18). Perhaps in the future, prefixing an electronic characteristic to the medium will be unnecessary when print becomes antiquated. In addition, the amorphous and dynamic nature of digital media challenges the description of e-textbooks as a legacy ‘books’ construct, such as the EPUB 3 file (International Digital Publishing Forum, 2016) which may contain an entire website with a searchable fluid word-wrap reading format, thereby negating the idea of a static page number or index. As noted by Dr. Ally (personal communication, August 21, 2016), an ‘e-textbook’ is encumbered by the term ‘textbook’ as an emulation of printed matter, such as the use of ‘pages’ and ‘bookmarks’ in PDF readers. A change in the term ‘e-textbook’ may provide greater recognition of potential for the digital medium to exist in different formats and interactions.
According to Beattie (2016), an open e-textbook is considered a form of open educational resource (OER) which is characterized by Wiley’s (2018) 5 R’s – retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute. Although Wiley’s 5R’s expressed ways of manipulating open e-textbooks, such characteristics do not identify what an open e-textbook is within an educational context. Chesser (2011, p. 32) distinguished e-textbooks as finite educational content to support a subject of study. Although Chesser (p. 38) acknowledged the importance of open e-textbooks with a focus on usage and copyright, there was no cohesive definition of an open e-textbook. Zmazek, B., Lipovec, A., Pesek, I., Zmazek, V., Šenveter, S., Regvat, J., and Prnaver, K. (2012) described e-textbooks from the perspective of eight axioms having “content-didactial requirements” (p. 129): curriculum, interactivity, multimedia, induction, motivation, deep thinking, uniqueness, and language. However, Zmazek et al. (2012) did not provide an axiom for openness. According to Moore and Butcher (2016, pp. 18–20), open textbooks are adaptable, structured, shareable, and dynamic within an educational environ.
McGuire and O’Leary (2012, para. 4), asserted that “we must start with context and preserve its connection to content so that both discovery and utility are enhanced.” McGuire and O’Leary defined context from a structural perspective as, “tagged content, research, footnoted links, sources, and audio and video background, as well as title-level metadata” (2012, para. 1). Hence, a more inclusive description of open e-textbooks could include the functional aspects of the medium as dynamic pedagogical resources, and the forms of media that are generated by digital publishing systems in a virtual environ enveloped by an open and social context (i.e., open access educational domains of society). Open e-textbooks incorporate internal qualities (e.g. didactical) and external qualities (e.g. communication).
For the purposes of my research, a proposed definition of an open e-textbook, produced from an online open e-textbook publishing systems, represents digitally transformed human consciousness from content creators, that is organized and packaged information and knowledge artifacts, and transmitted with the least barriers asynchronously (or a synchronously as possible) online for the purpose of learning, while preserving the rights and freedoms of producers and consumers. This proposed holistic anthropocentric definition situates the open e-textbook as a free and openly accessible educational resource, recognizing process and product without constricting the ways or kinds of content to be consumed by learners. However, the aforementioned proposed broad definition is in contrast to the strict e-textbook descriptions by Pata (2014) and Zmazek et al. (2012). Prefixing an ‘open’ quality for e-textbooks reinforces the notion of accessing this form of OER with the least barriers, and is an emancipatory opportunity to sharing and equality of open data, information, and knowledge for society.
e-Textbook Publishing System. A system is defined as “a complex whole” composed of “a set of things working together as parts of … an interconnecting network” (System, n.d.). An online open e-textbook publishing system is composed of various human and non-human elements that form interconnected parts of a complex whole, including open access attributes (e.g., Creative Commons copyrite), and free and open-source software features (see Appendix B timeline). In addition, an Internet open e-textbook publishing system manages the communication (e.g., protocols), data (e.g. content and file outputs), and administration (e.g., users, copyrite, logs). Furthermore, producer and consumer collaboration and cooperation is integral to the system as it affords simultaneous online multilevel authoring, commenting, and annotation functionality. Thus, an affordance of online open e-textbook publishing systems is a virtual publishing agora for various stakeholders such as administrators, producers, and consumers.
Post-secondary. The research inquiry uses the term ‘post-secondary’ as defined by the province of Alberta to mean, “Banff Centre, a university, a comprehensive community college, a polytechnic institution or any other institution established under this Act that is designated by the regulations as a public post-secondary institution” (Province of Alberta, 2003, sec. 1.1(p)).
Policy. Weimer and Vining (2004, p. 26) described three distinct areas of policy – academic social science research, policy research, and policy analysis. According to Weimer and Vining (2004), the academic research in the social sciences provides a broad basis for further research in understanding a policy. The research inquiry aligns with the aforementioned academic research category, rather than policy research and analysis that predicts and evaluates policy, toward a discourse in understanding relationships between open e-textbook publishing systems and OER policy.
Saint-Germain (2002) asserted that “a policy is a purposive course of action taken to deal with a problem or concern.” Bell and Stevenson (2006, p. 14), noted that policy was often conceptualized “as a programme of action, or a set of guidelines that determine how one should proceed given a particular set of circumstances.” However, Bell and Stevenson (2006), recognized that conceptualizing policy involves broad and complex aspects that could not be easily reduced to a single definition. Skidmore and Provida (2019, p. 5) defined policy as “high-level institutional principles and commitments endorsed by the institution’s governance processes.” However, Skidmore and Provida (2019, p. 6) asserted that “in higher education, “policy” is a fluid term that can have different meanings according to institutional context and local practice.” In example, provincial governments consider an OER memorandum a policy even though it does not directly lead to development of OER (Memorandum of Understanding Open Educational Resources, 2014).
The aforementioned policy definitions are very broad for OER policy or OER subsets, whereas Allen and Shockey (2014, p. 2) defined OER policy more narrowly as “laws, rules and courses of action that facilitate the creation, use or improvement of OER,” including “principles, laws, regulations or funder mandates, and may be enacted by governments, institutions, corporations or funders.” In addition, Allen and Shockey (2014, p. 2) identified forum, scope, and actor elements of OER policy. These elements of OER policy could be useful in the exploration and interpretation of public OER policy documents from Canadian post-secondary institutions in relation to online open e-textbook publishing systems.
Searching for open e-textbook publishing system policy can produce mixed results due to the use of the term ‘textbook’ that may have reference to either an electronic or print origin. This deeply ingrained term in discourse is in tension between an analog paradigm and a digital paradigm, manifested in the literature by ambiguities in the distinction between e-textbooks versus printed matter. In example, Tarkowski et al. (2019) discusses “digital textbooks” interchangeably with textbooks. Moore and Butcher (2016) discuss ‘open textbooks’ with ‘digital’ but not together as ‘e-textbook’ or variation such as ‘etextbook’ (P. Barker, 2013; Carmel et al., 2019; Patterson, 2018). According to (Chtena, 2019, p. 1), open textbooks are “digital textbooks.” BCcampus homepage for e-textbooks is titled “Open Textbooks” (“BCcampus OpenEd Resources,” n.d.) which intentionally or unintentionally could lead to cognitive dissonance in what format of textbook is being realized on a digital platform. In particular, the print-on-on demand notion is obsolete with the proliferation of modern ebook readers. It remains to be seen if infusing ‘open textbook’ to mean digital onto the past print paradigm will promote change. However, in this research inquiry the current literature search for distinct e-textbook policy is challenged by the legacy of media form and format.
The Hong Kong Education Bureau (Textbook Information, 2021) separates print from e-textbooks in promotion, policy/projects, publishing, and pedagogy. Zmazek et al. (2012, p. 129) delineated the term ‘e-textbook’ in an axiomatic approach without associating and prefixing the term with an ‘open’ quality.
Searching Google Scholar for “open e-textbook publishing system policy,” or “open e-textbook policy” yields no articles. However, a Google Scholar search of “e-textbook policy” had seven results, and within those results only the following two thesis had relevance to the research inquiry: Educational policy and planning for Future Education Development of e-Textbooks (Lee, 2012), and Visual Analysis of E-Textbooks for Senior High School in Indonesia (Ena, 2013). In addition, although a Carrot2 search of “e-textbook policy” found twenty documents in twelve clusters, the few relevant articles were the same sources found in Google Scholar. Ena’s (2013) thesis discussed policy in Indonesian government practice, whereas Lee (2012, p. 3) developed a broad management and project level policy ETiP framework for adoption and promotion of e-textbooks, “focusing on Eight domains (Policy, Infrastructure, Curriculum, Educational content, Standardisation, Human resource, Education Information System and Social study).” Although Lee (2012) did not consider open e-textbooks in the policy discourse, the author did associate open educational resources with e-textbooks in a later publication (Lee et al., 2013).
Tarkowski (Miao et al., 2016, Chapter 12) proposed that the Polish Open e-Textbooks Project could be a policy model. However, the Polish e-textbook program, covering curriculum from K-12, was not based on an OER policy (Allen & Shockey, 2014, p. 6); and was controversial with opposition by publishers and a budget of approximately 11 million Euros (“Cyfrowa Szkoła (Digital School) Open e-Textbooks Program,” 2013; Open Educational Resources in the “Cyfrowa Szkoła” (Digital School) National Program in Poland, 2012; Metamorphosis, 2012; Śliwowski & Grodecka, 2013; Tarkowski et al., 2016).
The OER policy versus activity model by Skidmore and Provida (2019, p. 24) captures the passive and active ways different kinds of OER policy exist in academic institutions. A weak, closed, and passive role for OER policy in this model would be representative of statements of support without any activity. A strong, open, and active role for OER policy in the aforementioned model would be representative of mandatory institution wide adoption of OER policy and development. Reiterating Skidmore and Provida (2019) and their informant comments, mandating action is problematic and a gap in current Canadian OER policies. Incentivizing approaches to encourage educators to change, as recommended by informants (Skidmore, 2019, pp. 31–33), and government funding for policy change, are strategies for promoting OER that has yet to be realized in active OER policy and related activities. However, the policy spectrum ignores the largest stakeholder for online open e-textbook publishing systems, the learners as developers, managers, and funders. The vast financial sums gathered by student unions and associations in Canada through sanctioned taxation of students fees is an opportunity to engage this key academic stakeholder group in funding, promoting, and adopting OER.
According to Allen and Shockey (2014, p. 3) there are four kinds of trending OER policies: licensing, resource, inducement, and framework. Each of these kinds of OER policy require action beyond good intentions (i.e., voluntary suggestions). The licensing, resources, and inducement categories indicate explicit OER policies whereas the framework category includes indirectly related policies. These four policies overlap the spectrum of OER policy in the y-axis of the model by Skidmore and Provida (2019, p. 24). Influencing policies that promote Allen and Shockey’s four policy categories are encompassed in the framework policies category, as they “do not directly lead to the creation, use or improvement of OER, but instead create pathways or remove barriers in support of future action” (Allen & Shockey, 2014, p. 7). Although influencing policies are important to the genesis of OER policies and activities, they are outside the scope of this research inquiry.
Fragmentation of provincial of educational responsibilities ironically parallels the situation with development of online open e-textbook publishing systems across Canada. Two distinct approaches to online open e-textbook publishing systems are operating in Canada, either as a centralized provincially driven program (e.g. BCcampus, Manitoba Campus, eCampusOntario), or decentralized with each institution self-hosting Pressbooks either on campus (e.g., U of A, AU) or through a commercial Pressbooks service (e.g., AU, U of S) (see Appendix B timeline).
There is very little online policy literature that directly targets open e-textbooks or the broader area of OER in Canada. There are varying perspectives on OER policy from absence (McGreal, 2020) to marginal non-mandated policies on largely ad hoc OER activities (Skidmore, 2019). In homepage and about webpage searches of all of the Pressbooks sites, either from central or decentralized authorities, no references could be found for any policy for open e-textbooks OER.
Skidmore (2019) identified three Canadian academic institutions with related OER policies: UBC, SAIT, and KPU.
University of British Columbia (UBC). The OER inclusion in the Guide to Reappointment, Promotion and Tenure Procedures at UBC (Guide to Reappointment, Promotion and Tenure Procedures at UBC, 2018; Yano, 2017) is considered “the gold standard for OER/P policy” by (Skidmore, 2019, p. 15). However, even though UBC is engaged in OER development, no specific public OER policy was found. An example of an indirectly related policy could be policy LR12 Use of Teaching Materials in UBC Credit Courses (2019) which delineated teaching materials based on location without stating that materials outside a department repository could be considered for open licensing.
Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT). The 2018-2021 open education strategic plan discussed supporting the adoption of OER, including infrastructure support (Norman, 2018). However, this strategic document suggest providing “necessary technology for faculty and staff (e.g., Pressbooks)” (Norman, 2018), rather than an explicit directive or adoption of a particular publishing system. In addition, the strategic plan emphasized the institution as non-legislative facilitator in adoption, development, training, infrastructure and collaboration (Norman, 2018). SAIT has an OER policy to “encourage” promotion of OER (SAIT Board of Governors, 2018), which appears to be the most relevant institutional policy for open e-textbooks.
In comparing the SAIT OER policy to other Alberta post-secondary institutions such as AU, SAIT OER policy is specific rather than the AU policies that focus on open access (Athabasca University, 2014b, 2014a). The ‘open access’ concept of availability to Internet users without charge (Athabasca University, 2014a) has been a key focus for AU Press publishing repository (About Open Access, 2020). However, currently a formal public AU OER strategic plan or policy document has not been found online.
Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU). According to Skidmore (2019), the KPU Academic Plan 2018 (KPU Academic Plan 2018, 2014) contained evidence of policy with respect to OER. The Jhangiani (2018, p. 19) stated the strategic goal is to “develop an institutional open education policy.” However, neither of these documents articulate an open educational resource policy. In the aforementioned documents, Skidmore’s (2019) open education policy scan model encompasses KPU’s statements of support for openness in education without commitment to dedicated OER policy or open e-textbook publishing system policy. Since Skidmore’s (2019) open education policy scan model includes open-access and practices, OER specific policies (i.e., licensing, resource, inducement, and framework), that Allen and Shockey (2014) identified, are diluted into this open education policy scan model. Thus, Skidmore’s Y axis OER/P policy spectrum is more about open education and practices than OER policy, particularly in the KPU situation that is targeting ‘open education policy.’
McGrath (2018) identified SC, UG, and RU as representative of OER initiatives, among the 45 academic institutions associated with an online Pressbooks open e-textbook publishing system hosted by eCampusOntario.
Seneca College (SC). Although no public OER policy was found, the Information Technology Acceptable Use Policy (n.d.) could be relevant to any future OER policy, as it states that “all information stored in any form on IT Resources (e.g., in documents, video streams, audio recordings, etc.) and all communications transmitted in any manner using IT Resources are governed by this Policy.” Hence, this policy would take precedence over any digital information or activity on campus, including online OER and open e-textbook publishing. Furthermore, any form of future OER policy could relate to Intellectual Property Policy (n.d.) with respect to creative commons licensing, and Libraries Policy (n.d.) for OER collections.
University of Guelph (UG). Although the UG OER webpage (Open Educational Resources, n.d.-a) promotes open e-textbooks, the Pressbooks instance for the open e-textbook production and distribution does not provide any information on a supporting OER policy (Open Educational Resources, n.d.-b; University of Guelph Open Books – Publishing Platform, n.d.). The UG Pressbooks instance does provide a support link to the commercial Pressbook site (University of Guelph Open Books – Publishing Platform, n.d.).
Ryerson University (RU). RU has been developing open e-textbooks on the Pressbooks platform, and providing grants to support open e-textbook publishing in the absence of any corresponding OER or OER subset policy (“2019-2020 OER Grants – Book Publishing at Ryerson,” n.d.; ECampus Ontario Funds Five Online Open Content Initiatives, 2017; “ECampusOntario, Ryerson University to Create Open Publishing Infrastructure for Ontario Post-Secondary Educators, Learners,” 2017; “Grants – Book Publishing at Ryerson,” n.d.; Pressbooks Working with Ryerson University on ECampusOntario Grant, 2017; McGrath, 2018). In addition, RU has partnered with the Pressbooks company to develop the Pressbooks application (Beattie, 2018; “ECampusOntario, Ryerson University to Create Open Publishing Infrastructure for Ontario Post-Secondary Educators, Learners,” 2017; Pressbooks Working with Ryerson University on ECampusOntario Grant, 2017; Mays, 2018).
[OER policy tools:
College and university open educational resources (OER) policy development tool version 1.0;
[United States Examples – California, Connecticut, University of Kansas, Tidewater Comm College]
[Slovenia, Romania, NUST, Kumasi – Ghana]
This study explores policies in Canadian post-secondary institutions related to online open e-textbook publishing systems for which they are currently engaged in production of open e-textbooks.