Thursday, November 4, 2010

Textbooks' Coming of Age

TextbookImage via WikipediaI have been teaching for over 25 years and one of my biggest frustrations is textbooks. Not only are they costly for the student but they are almost out of date by the time they are printed and not a valuable reference to the student after graduation. New academic textbooks are a $4.5 billion industry and the used textbook market is pegged at $4 billion.

A new company called is trying to capture some of that market by making books available to students who send them back after they are done. Not a bad idea but there is still the problem of the currency of the materials. The only way to go is digital. With digital books, students will be able to read materials that is more relevant, the prof can select part of one text and part of another, and there is no paper to waste which should keep the tree-huggers happy. It's a win-win all around.

Digital book, newspaper and textbooks have been slowly making their way into our lives. Currently you can get a digital copy of your daily newspaper, your favorite best seller and an e-copy of an academic textbook usually accompanies the physical copy. I think that print media is slowly disappearing and evolving into digital content. Steven Ballmer said that he believe print media will disappear in 10 years. Futurist Ross Dawson said that newspapers will cease to exist in the US within seven years followed by Britain and Iceland in 2019, and Canada and Norway a year later.

I think we have an obligation to teach students how to read digital content. It involves a different set of skills than reading printed text. Modern kids are considered digital natives because they are in tune with FaceBook and Twitter but that does not mean that they know how to use digital technologies to educate themselves.
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