Open Access Philosophy Textbooks


Open educational resources (OER) are “any kind of material that you can use in teaching and learning that is openly available.” Richard Zach (Calgary) explains that “openly available” in this context means:

Available under a license which allows the “five Rs of openness“:

  • Retain – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content
  • Reuse – the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video
  • Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
  • Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other open content to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
  • Redistribute – the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)

OER could include syllabi, handouts, slides, videos, and books. In his post, Zach, one of the creators of the Open Logic Project, focuses on textbooks, since hard copies of them can be so expensive. Openly available textbooks are not yet common in philosophy, but you can see what he has found here.

Importantly, he notes:

One way of getting more open philosophy textbooks would be for authors of existing textbooks to reclaim their copyright. This is possible for works for which copyright was transferred to a publisher in 1978 or later, and 35 after the rights were transferred.  If your textbook is out of print, the publisher may relinquish the rights if you ask.  Once you have your rights back, you can license your book under a Creative Commons license, and voilà, open textbook!

Discussion of OER and related issues welcome.

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