10 eBook Structure

Before you begin writing, create an outline that details the topics to be covered in your open text and how they will be organised in a table of contents. Consider the type of students who will use your open educational resource and the course level and program for which the open text is intended. Taking time to consider the audience and classroom will direct the tone and complexity of your writing. As such, it should be scheduled in your project timeline. This vital step will save time and money, reduce mistakes, and hopefully result in a more useful, engaging open text.

Details and Decisions

An outline is most useful when it includes all the details needed to build and arrange your book. Recruiting a copy editor at this early stage, someone who can ensure that all elements and layout are covered will save time later in the project. The copy editor can also assist you with selecting a style guide and setting up a style sheet, which they will refer to during the copy editing and proofreading phases.

Front Matter

The front matter is the introductory section of your open text and the first thing readers see. Pressbooks will set up some of these sections for you, including a copyright page and a table of contents. The following table lists the items typically included in the front matter and the order in which they appear. While most open texts will have many of these elements, very few will have all of them. Only include the sections relevant to your open text.

Table 2: Front matter for JCU Pressbooks
Item  Inclusion? Responsibility Purpose
Title Page (print)
Landing page (webbook)
Required OE team/author Book title and subtitle (if any), author/s and/or editor/s and other contributors, table of contents, book information, and metadata.
Verso/copyright page (print) Required OE team On the verso of the title page, the following may be included: open-licence information (type, definition, where to obtain a free copy of the book);  if an adaptation, the changes made; attribution for the cover image; publisher’s name and address; copyright notice; ISBN; date of publication.
Acknowledgment of Country Recommended OE team/author An Acknowledgment of Country is highly recommended for the front matter of all eBooks published by JCU.
Accessibility information Recommended Publisher If the book is written and designed to be accessible, provide a description of how this was done and the various options people have when accessing the book. Indicate the standards that have been followed, and provide contact information for where people can report any accessibility issues. (See Accessibility and Universal Design for Learning).
Dedication Optional Author The person or people for whom the author has written or dedicated the book.
About this book Recommended Author This could include a very brief overview of the contents of the book, the purpose or audience for the book and how to use the book
About the author/s Recommended Author This page has the author’s biography followed by the biographies of any contributing authors listed in alphabetical order. This description is professional and describes the author’s expertise, experience, and training in the open text’s subject matter. A photo can be included.
Foreword Optional Expert (not the author) An outside expert typically writes the foreword in the field at the request of the primary author. The foreword author’s name, place, and date are included at the end of the statement.
Preface Optional Author The author uses the preface to explain why and how they came to write the book. They might also describe their expertise in the subject area.
Acknowledgements Optional Author This is a list of individuals whom the author acknowledges for their contributions and assistance. If the author has been funded, they are required to acknowledge the funding.
List of abbreviations Optional Author This list of abbreviations and their meanings is useful for the reader.
Introduction Recommended Author This introduction describes the book’s contents as a whole. The book’s theme, layout, special features, and how instructors can make the best use of it, can also be included. The author may also create a “How to Use This Book” section if more fitting.

Below are links to find the current recommended wording for certain parts of the front matter.

Acknowledgment of Country

Please consult the “Printed and Online Content” section of the JCU Guide to Acknowledgement of Country document for the current recommended wording.

Accessibility Information

Please use the accessibility disclaimer in the Accessibility Information chapter.


As you shape the content of your open text’s main body, ask these questions:

  • How will the main body be organised? Indicate if chapters or parts with chapters will be used.
  • Will each chapter include chapter headings? (If chapter headings are included in the table of contents, it is easier for students and other instructors who might use your open text to see the content at a glance and navigate through the book.)
  • Will numbering and/or titles be used to identify parts, chapters, and chapter headings? If possible, include these in the outline. (Titles and numbering can be changed in the final draft, but establishing working titles helps during the organisational phase.)
  • How long should the book be? Estimate the word count for the entire book, and then break this number down into individual chapters.

Next, consider the layout, style, and length for each chapter and chapter section. Decide what elements to incorporate such as:

  • learning objectives or outcomes that align with the open text content, typically identified at the beginning of each part or chapter
  • exercises, essay questions, practice quizzes, H5P activities, or other methods for the student to self-test during reading or for the instructor to use for grading
  • key terms highlighted and defined throughout the open text; some authors summarise these in a glossary placed in the back matter
  • chapter-end summary, list of key points or key takeaways
  • references at chapter end or in the back matter
  • suggested or additional reading lists at the end of each chapter or in the back matter
  • resources (photos, illustrations, diagrams, graphs, charts, tables) and how they will be labelled, numbered and captioned. Will these items be original creations or retrieved from external sources?
  • multimedia (videos and audio clips) for the online version of your open text. How will these elements be labelled, numbered, and captioned? Will you offer editable files?

Estimate the amount of time needed to create each item for each chapter or chapter section — and then double it. The majority of self-publishing authors underestimate the amount of time required to write and produce or collect resources and multimedia. If tasks are completed ahead of schedule, bank this extra time for other delays later on. Ask your copy editor to include the above items on their review list.

Back Matter

Items at the end, or as part of the back matter, of an open text are typically supplements to the main text.

Table 3: Back matter for JCU Pressbooks
Item Inclusion?
Responsibility Purpose
Appendix/appendices Optional Author An appendix provides supplementary material to information found in the main work. In cases where there is more than one appendix, they can be numbered and described for easier reference.
Glossary Optional Author The glossary is a list of keywords or terms used within the book and their definitions. These terms are listed alphabetically. Pressbooks has an in-built glossary function, should you wish to use it.
Reference list Optional Author reference list notes all resources cited within the open text and lists them alphabetically by the author’s last name.
Acknowledgments and attributions Recommended Author A list of resources that contributed to the compilation of the current eBook.
Bibliography Optional Author Typically, a bibliography refers to all works used as references within the open text, both cited and read as background in preparation for writing. Note: A bibliography is not used by all style guides.
Suggested readings Optional Author A list of additional books, articles, and other readings can be included here for students. Some authors choose to add suggested reading lists, targeted at the subject covered in a chapter, at the end of each chapter.
Additional resources Optional Author A list of helpful resources, such as videos and tools, can be added here.
Peer review statement Optional Author Description of the peer review process.
Peer reviews Optional Author Author/s are welcome to include their peer reviews in the text’s back matter.
Instructor insights Optional Author Author/s can include instructor insights (such as this example) to enhance the value for other educators.
Versioning history Recommended OE team/Author As open texts are often digital and available online, there is a certain expectation that minor corrections and updates be made as necessary, even after the book is live and completed. The versioning history provides information about how to report an error in the open text, as well as a record of any updates and changes made in the open text and the date of those changes.

Chapter Attribution

This chapter has been adapted in parts from:

Open Publishing Guide for Authors by University of Southern Queensland. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.


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JCU OER Author Guide Copyright © 2023 by James Cook University Library is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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