The future is open

- November 27, 2018

Cover art for "Environmental Science: A Canadian Perspective."
Cover art for "Environmental Science: A Canadian Perspective."

EDITOR'S NOTE: The book launch mentioned in this article has been postponed due to Dal's power outage and campus closure on Thursday. It will be resheduled for a later date.

 Dal Libraries is launching its first in-house produced open textbook, Environmental Science: A Canadian Perspective by renowned conservation biologist and Dalhousie faculty member Bill Freedman (1950–2015).

“The production of this open textbook is a celebration of the legacy of Bill Freedman, and an exploration of new possibilities to provide open access to scholarly resources at no cost to the reader,” says Donna Bourne-Tyson, Dalhousie’s University Librarian.   

An open textbook is a textbook that has been published under an open copyright license and made available online freely to students, faculty, and members of the public. Most open textbooks are digital in format as there are fewer costs associated with digital publication. A digital format is also easier for people to access regardless of their location. 

This is the first open textbook the Libraries have produced as part of its Digital Scholarship Initiative. Under the umbrella of the Digital Scholarship Initiative, the Dal Libraries offers services that include online journal publishing and hosting (OJS), eTextbook hosting, digital collections metadata development, and other related initiatives.

Thinking digital

As the digital scholarship librarian for the Dalhousie Libraries, Geoff Brown is the point person for much of this work, including the production of this open textbook.

“It’s very satisfying to be a part of this innovative project,” said Geoff. “Providing access to information is what we in the Libraries strive to do and removing barriers like cost for a textbook is one more way we achieve that.”

Geoff worked on the production of the textbook throughout the summer. The content came to him in the form of Microsoft Word files. The first thing he did was remove the many images, figures, and tables in the document. Next, he put the text into an open publishing system called Pressbooks. Finally, he put the images back in.

“Open textbooks differ greatly from commercially published textbooks. Commercial publishers use digital rights management to control distribution of their publications. Our goal is to welcome as wide a distribution as possible of the textbook we’ve produced,” said Ann Barrett, Associate University Librarian for Scholarly Communications.

Environmental Science: a Canadian Perspective is available in DalSpace, Dalhousie’s institutional repository. You can also find it in Novanet, the union catalogue for all Nova Scotia post-secondary institutions and in WorldCat, a catalogue of the collections of 72,000 libraries in 170 countries and territories. Next steps for distributing the textbook include reaching out to other Canadian open textbook initiatives so more Canadian universities will know about it.

Throughout the production of this textbook the Libraries have been in close contact with George-Anne Merrill, Bill’s wife. After Bill passed, the Dal Libraries acquired his papers and digital files for preservation in the Archives.

"Thanks to George-Anne’s willingness to trust us with this project, we are now able to share Bill’s work with the world,” says Michael Moosberger, associate university librarian, archives, special Collections, and records Management; and university archivist.


You are cordially invited to the launch of the Dalhousie Libraries' first open textbook, Environmental Science: a Canadian Perspective by renowned conservation biologist Bill Freedman (1950–2015).

Thursday November 29, 3 PM

Biology Lounge, Fifth floor, Life Sciences Centre



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