Textbook Publishing

The Iowa State University Digital Press publishes open educational resources (OER), including textbooks, in subject areas reflected in Iowa State University’s academic and research programs.


Authors interested in publishing OER through the Digital Press should submit a Digital Press Textbook Proposal Form. Download the proposal form in Word to prepare your response in advance and review requirements for submission.

The Digital Press team will review the form and contact you with any questions. A Box folder will be created to facilitate the delivery of the manuscript, images, and source information. Authors will be trained on the formatting and technical capabilities of our publishing software, Pressbooks, to help you format your manuscript appropriately.

After your manuscript is submitted to the Digital Press, it will be imported into Pressbooks. Our team will import your manuscript and manage the formatting and layout design. When your book’s layout is complete, authors will be able to review the textbook. Substantive changes must be made before final submission. If the author is incorporating content from H5P or other interactive tools, they will be able to incorporate them in the OER at this time.


The Iowa State University Digital Press publishes textbooks using Pressbooks. Features of the Pressbooks platform include:

  • Easy embedding of multimedia content;
  • Inclusion of interactive elements through H5P, Hypothes.is, and other tools;
  • Integration with Canvas through the LTI;
  • Incorporation of mathematical equations through MathJax and QuickLatex.
  • The Digital Press’s publishing services are provided at no cost.

Copyright and licensing

All publications published by the Digital Press must be fully Open Access and free to read online. Open Educational Resources (OER) published by the Digital Press must be released under a Creative Commons license that allows adaptation to support future innovation and adaptation of the work. Authors will retain copyright over works published through the Digital Press, but the Digital Press strongly encourages publishing under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) or Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (CC BY-NC) to maximize the distribution and reuse of works. OER authors are responsible for securing permission to incorporate any materials created by third-parties in their work. The Digital Press encourages authors to use material that is openly licensed (e.g., through Creative Commons) or in the public domain. Third-party materials that are included without proper licensing or permissions will be removed from the work.

Inclusive practices

In designing OER, we encourage authors to present examples with diversity in mind, and to incorporate inclusive language into your work. For collaborative projects, we strongly encourage book editors to build teams and peer reviewer pools that are inclusive of a diversity of identities, geographies, perspectives, and lived experiences appropriate to the scope of the work they produce.


The Digital Press partners with the Iowa State University Digital Accessibility Lab to proof open textbooks for ADA compliance. Among other things, authors should provide alternative text (short descriptions of images and figures in their text), image captions, and appropriate headers throughout their text’s manuscript to allow for a faster review process. Authors can receive training on accessibility basics from the Digital Press team if their project requires additional support.

For a general overview of what an accessibility audit might include, review the table below:

Area of Focus
Organizing Content
  • Content is organized under headings and subheadings
  • Headings and subheadings are used sequentially (e.g. Heading 1. Heading 2, etc.) as well as logically (if the title if Heading 1 then there should be no other Heading 1 styles as the title is the uppermost level)
  • Images that convey information include Alternative Text (alt-text) descriptions of the image’s content or function
  • Graphs, charts, and maps also include contextual or supporting details in the text surrounding the image
  • Images do not rely on color to convey information
  • Images that are purely decorative contain empty alternative text descriptions. (Descriptive text is unnecessary if the image doesn’t convey contextual content information
  • Tables include row and column headers
  • Tables include a title or caption
  • Tables do not have merged or split cells
  • Tables have adequate cell padding
  • The weblink is meaningful in context, and does not use generic text such as “click here” or “read more”
  • Weblinks do not open new windows or tabs
  • If weblinks must open in a new window, a textual reference is included in the link information
Embedded Multimedia
  • A transcript has been made available for a multimedia resource that includes audio narration or instruction, including the speaker’s name, all spoken content, relevant descriptions of speech, descriptions of relevant non-speech audio, and headings and subheadings.
  • Captions of all speech content and relevant non-speech content are included in the multimedia resource that includes audio synchronized with a video presentation
  • Audio descriptions of contextual visuals (graphs, charts, etc.) are included in the multimedia resource
  • Formulas have been formatted in LaTeX or asciimath
This table was adapted from Accessibility Assessment in The Rebus Guide to Publishing Open Textbooks (So Far), edited by Apurva Ashok and Zoe Wake Hyde and available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license 

Formatting your manuscript

Your manuscript may be submitted as a single Word file for the entire textbook, or as individual Word files for each chapter or subchapter. A Word template is available for formatting your manuscript.

Chapter Titles
  • Chapter titles should be formatting using the Heading 1 style
  • Major section heading should be formatting using the Heading 2 style
  • Subsection headings shoudl be formatted using the Heading 3 style
  • Heading 4 and below should be used sparingly, as necessary
  • Please indicate where images should be placed within your manuscript (e.g., [Insert Figure 1.3 here]) alongside alt text and caption information. Captions should indicate the permissions/licensing status of images used (e.g., Figure 1. Mitosis in action [Source: Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 4.0]).
  • Images to be added to your manuscript should be provided in Box as high-resolution PNG files. Use the figure number as the file name, using a dash instead of a period (e.g., Figure1-3.png).
  • In a separate document, include source information for all figures. This should include a link to the image source and its license information (i.e. CC BY, public domain, used with permission) .
  • The Digital Press does not have a preferred citation style, so long as citation format is consistent throughout the publication.
  • Tag citations in-text with [footnote]Example citation.[/footnote] or provide references in plain text under a header at the end of your chapter. Using Word’s built-in citation features will cause delays in importing and formatting your OER.
  • Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) for citations should be included when available.
Tracked Changes
  • If tracked changes or comments were used in the drafting of the manuscript, please ensure that all changes and comments are resolved before submitting your manuscript.


In order to get started with H5P, authors will need to provide the Digital Press with a list of content types they would like enabled in their OER. Descriptions of available content types are available on the H5P website.

After the initial layout of the OER is complete, authors will be granted access to the system to create and embed their H5P content.


Pressbooks supports the inclusion of mathematical equations through the use of either QuickLaTeX or MathJax. Authors should code mathematical formulas in their books as LaTeX formulae using the shortcode [latex]math here[/latex] around select equations or as asciimath formulae using the shortcode [asciimath]math here[/asciimath].

After the initial layout of the OER is complete, authors will be granted access to the Pressbooks system to review equations imported into their text and make edits or adjustments as necessary.

Peer review

If desired, the Digital Press can manage the peer review of OER. If peer review is desired, authors should provide the Digital Press with at least three names and contact details of potential reviewers who are experts in the field.

Publication and marketing

When your book’s final edits are completed, follow up with our team to get your book cover and DOI created, and to begin the final publication process.

Once your textbook is published, the Digital Press will register your book to relevant OER repositories (e.g. Pressbooks Directory, Open Textbook Library, OER Commons) and promote the book on listservs and social media. We recommend that authors provide their contact information in the Front Matter of their book or a form for interested parties to contact them. For example, you may want to get feedback from instructors who have adopted your book into their courses or reviewed your book post-publication. Having this data can help highlight your book’s impact during promotion and tenure discussions.

Print copies

The Digital Press does not produce print copies of OER published on our platforms, but authors may order copies of their texts at cost from Iowa State University Printing Services or online third-party printing services.

Updates and revisions

After your book’s publication, the Digital Press will do an annual review of hyperlinks within the text to check for broken links. Authors will be responsible for reviewing other items, such as interactive elements and embedded videos.

If you wish to update a small portion of your text based on comments from peers or students, contact the Digital Press to discuss your proposed revisions. Authors can make small edits in Pressbooks (up to 5% of their book’s content) without delay. These edits should be logged in the Versioning History log provided in your Pressbook’s Back Matter. For more significant changes, the Digital Press team will work with you to determine if your book should be updated to “second edition” status, and updates will be handled in a separate draft before being imported into your book.

Additional resources

  • Abbey Elder. The OER Starter Kit.
    This starter kit provides instructors with an introduction to the use and creation of open educational resources (OER). The text is broken into five sections: Getting Started, Copyright, Finding OER, Teaching with OER, and Creating OER.
  • SDG Publishers Compact Fellows. SDG Rubric for for Improving Textbooks and Related Materials.
    This rubric provides instructors with a tool to evaluate their teaching materials for coverage of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The SDG Rubric Top Action Tips provides additional information on incorporating the SDGs in teaching materials.

Forms and files