Ebooks as Textbooks Part 11: Creating your own textbook

You go to school, you have classes and in those classes you will have others students, a teacher and and a textbook. That textbook, will usually selected by the school district for you use use (usually from a big publishing house), and will usually be a big book weighing quite a few pounds. That is the classic thought about textbooks, although they don't have to be like that.  don't have to be limited to a course, although if you are a teacher reading this you might now be thinking of building your own etextbook. A textbook , as defined by Google, is "a book used as a standard work for the study of a particular subject" (google 2013) and from that people usually think school. You can expand that definition to read that a textbook is that it is a book that you use to learn facts, strategies, and methods about a topic. So while you might create your own text book for a class,  think about how a repair guide or manual is actually a form of textbook to learn about a car, or a tourist guide book is a form of textbook about a city. The idea is that any book that teaches you about something could be viewed as a textbook.

So from that you can now start thinking about how you can build your own textbooks based on your own needs or desires for what and how you learn. You could build a personal textbook from your class notes, so that you could keep them better. You could build your etextbook out of publicly shared information and copyright free work you can create all kinds of books for yourself to use as you are learning, you can even write your own chapter questions or problems if you want. you could make your etextbook of study strategies that work for you, or a travel book that contained information of where to go to see dinosaur fossils in that area, not about places to stay or eat. Or imagine you are taking one of those great class trips where you get to go to another country like Italy, and at the same time you wanted to study literature, then you could build your own travel-literature etextbook, where it contained information and pictures of the cities you would be going to along with great works of literature that used that city as the setting or where the author actually wrote the work. Think about going to Verona, you could have the Wikipedia information about the city in your etextbook, and also the play Romeo and Juliet, so when you came to Juliet's balcony, you could stop and read the play as you set in the environment it was written for. Since the length of the extextbook you create isn't limited by the amount you can physically carry, you can add what ever you need or want to have with you. You could create a field guide to help you learn more about plants and animals in your area and put in elements or entire works from Charles Darwin's Origin of the Species or Henry David Thoreau's Walden. If you were the teacher you might be creating an interdisciplinary course textbook one that mixes together both science and literature - so for each science chapter you could add literature words from the public domain. Or if your teacher had you reading from a number of documents for your course, you could combine them all into a single book for your use. The point is that you can build your etextbook to fit your learning style or needs to help you learn that particular subject you are interested in.

You can create your own etextbook using your word processor and a program (like Calibre) or site to convert the document file into an ebook file. You might also need to use a program for image editing. Once you have constructed your etextbook the way you want then you can convert the DOCX file form the word processing into your etextbook file, such as EPUB, MOBI, or AZW, depending on the needs of the ebook device or program you use. 

To get started you want to start with an existing text, something that you can revise and remix from what is already there to make it better for you. There are lots of existing freely shared etextbooks online that you can start with (see Ebooks as Textbooks Part 10). Then look for other things that you want to add to make it better. You might start with places that are either in the public domain or share without a copyright restriction, for example works published under Creative Commons. And of course you can also write your own content.  When you have the parts that you want copy them into or open them with your word processor. Next fix and add any images you want and it is usually best to convert any tables into images and insert them back into the text. Now you save the document as a .DOCX file.  Below is an example that I was working on to convert the State DOE book on motorcycle riding into an ebook file. This "textbook" was available as a PDF, but I felt that in that format it didn't have the flexibility that I wanted concerning text display and note taking.  So I started with the provided text, formatted the chapter titles into heading formats, converted and placed the images that were already in the book and then added a few images to help support scooter riding. 

Once you have your etextbook as a DOCX file, you can drag that file into the Calibre ebook collection. The Calibre program will recognize the text as an ebook file and add it to the listed books. Now that it was in the program, I added the book's metadata: title, cover picture, year, etc.

Next, I wanted to convert the book into my ebook readers format. To do this you select the book so that you can convert it into an ebook file for reading on an ebook device or with an ebook program. Click on the book then using the dropdown under Convert Books, and select the option to Convert Individually, choosing the output format desired, such as AZW for Kindle or EPUB for other readers iPad's iBook. You can also now add additional information about the title, authors, or the course you are using it for.

Now all you have to do to start using your own etextbook is to move it to your ereader. You can do this by sideloading, were you connect your ebook reader to your computer and then drag the book file over to your device's book folder or you can transfer through the network (not all ereaders can do this), such as with Amazon's "Send to Kindle" file or using the special email address for your reader.