IntroductionList of Author Blogs and Twitter AccountsIndex by AuthorIndex by TopicLicensing Information1. Innovation & Disruption25 Years of Ed TechIf We Were Really Serious about Educational TechnologyWe Can't Let Educators Off the HookInterventionsWaiting for O SupermanA Field Guide to "Jobs that Don't Exist Yet"A Definition of Emerging Technologies for EducationInnovation in Higher Education ... and Other Blasts from the PastTo Lecture Capture or Not to Lecture Capture?Possible Futures for Innovation and Technology in Higher EducationThis is Not the Online Learning You (or We) are Looking ForReclaiming Disruption2. Openness & SharingInto the OpenDefining the 'Open' in Open Content and Open Educational ResourcesExploring the Open Knowledge LandscapePlanning to Share Versus Just SharingThe Access Compromise and the 5th ROpen Textbooks? UGH.My Open Textbook: Pedagogy and PracticeRemix, Mashups, Aggregation, Plagiarism Oh MyCrossing the Field Boundaries: Open Science, Open Data & Open EducationThe CCK08 MOOCOERs: The Good, the Bad and the UglyWhat's Right and What's Wrong about Coursera-Style MOOCsOpening Up Open PedagogyOpen Pedagogy and a Very Brief History of the ConceptInternational Something: Why You Should Care #DigPedDoes Open Pedagogy Require OER?Pragmatism vs. Idealism and the Identity Crisis of OER AdvocacyOpen Ends?The Fallacy of 'Open'3. Identity & ParticipationThe Question Should be: Why Are You *Not* BloggingThe Kindness of BloggingAn Introduction to Connective KnowledgeRhizomatic EducationA History of Knowledge, Distributed Cognition, and the PhDSome Observations on PLE DiagramsE-Learning 2.0The Role of Personality in EducationDigital IdentitiesKithNobody's Version of Dumbsomething is rotten in the state of ... TwittercliqueonomicsColonisers and Edupunks (&C.)Digital Trespass and Critical Literacy #OER174. Equity & PowerThe Golden Age of Education that Never WasBlackboard Patents the LMSThe Glass BeesWhat Do We Owe Students When We Collect Their Data - A ResponseAI is Coming for Your Instructional and Learning Design Jobs, ApparentlyMOOCs and Directing an Academic FieldThe Audacity: Thrun Learns a Lesson and Students PayThe Lower Ed Ecosystem: Bootcamps Edition#BreakOpen Breaking OpenOpen Cyborgs at #ALTCPlatform Literacy in a Time of Mass GaslightingWhy We Shouldn't Let Economists Play with EducationConnectivity as PovertyReproducing Marginality?Inclusion AgainOER, Equity, and Implicit Creative RedliningFor Now, Our OwnConcluding ThoughtsAppendicesA List of Some Great EdTech BlogsRecommendations for Formal Learning

Open Textbooks? UGH.

Editor's Note

This was originally posted to Robin DeRosa's blog [] on November 20, 2015.


I am writing this from OpenEd15 [] in Vancouver.  And this is a call to my like-minded compatriots spread across our conference rooms here, but also to the tweeps and digitalactivists I’ve worked with online over the last two years.  After three days of sessions focused on reducing textbook costs, creating all-OER degree programs, generating data analytics for OER, and producing open textbooks in just four days, I am ready for some good, old-school mutiny.  It’s a loving and grateful mutiny, since this conference energizes, inspires, and provokes me.  But nonetheless, I’m ready to fling some ideas overboard and see this ship steer in a new direction.


Don’t get me wrong.  I am here in Vancouver because I am deeply committed to reducing textbook costs.  Wait.  Scratch that.  I don’t actually care about textbook costs.  I care about access, broadly conceived: access to ideas, access to pathways to contribute to knowledge, access to research so that we can collaborate and build.  Fundamentally, I don’t want to be part of a movement that is focused on replacing static, over-priced textbooks with static, free textbooks.  Textbooks, if we don’t re-theorize them, have generally (just) been repositories for the master’s ideas. Students absorb textbook content and achieve “mastery.” (Call it “competency,” whatever.)  Making textbooks more affordable is not high on my list of things to do.  Here’s what I want OpenEd to help me figure out how to do instead of lowering textbook costs:

  1. Engage learners in contributing to their learning materials so that knowledge becomes a community endeavor rather than a commodity that needs to be made accessible. To that end, let’s stop fetishizing the textbook, which is at best a low-bar pedagogical tool for transmitting information. OER is better than that.
  2. Make open licenses the focus of our advocacy for learners, teachers, scholars, which means explaining how the open license enables us to do more with the ideas that we ourselves as learners, teachers, scholars are generating.  It’s not the open textbook, it’s the open license that matters here.
  3. Consider public funding models for open education (OER, open pedagogy, open access). “Philanthropy” is the wrong word for a model in which the public pays itself for what it needs and can generate on its own. And I am not buying that private, for-profit companies– while capable of being good community partners– are the only way we can build a public infrastructure for publishing and organizing and economically supporting open work.
  4. Build a better mission statement for why we work in the open.  I took a stab here [], but it was just one tiny specific start. I need help explaining this why. We need the why before we can develop the what (who cares about our open tools and apps and platforms? that’s the easy stuff, so let’s do it second).  We need the why before we can assess whether or not we achieved success.  Will working in the open serve a social justice vision? improve retention and enrollment? increase interdisciplinary collaboration and improve the quality of our scholarship? Yes? Why? How? And what will it look like if our vision succeeds?

I don’t think that advocating for a pedagogical approach to OER makes me radical or an outlier.  But my sense is that the movement is cohering around the “gateway” of open textbook adoption.  But don’t worry, I am told, once we hook ’em, we can slip in the pedagogy!

No. No!


That hook is going to puncture our foundational beliefs about the power of open.

I am calling for a (radical?) pedagogy caucus, a core, self-identified group committed to placing pedagogy at the center of the OpenEd movement. I am going to stop apologizing for my sense that textbooks are the wrong way to pitch open.

Open doesn’t need a pitch because open is not for sale.

Suggested Citation

DeRosa, R. (2019). Open Textbooks? UGH.. In R. Kimmons, EdTech in the Wild: critical blog posts. EdTech Books. Retrieved from

CC BY: This work is released under a CC BY license, which means that you are free to do with it as you please as long as you properly attribute it.

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