Originally Posted by Snappy!
Can't they just suspend their context-checker and learn the underlying maths?
We learn math better if it's presented in a context. (That's what I'm earning my doctorate in, so I feel somewhat qualified to comment on this.) That being said, as someone else has pointed out, trains DO still leave Boston on a regular basis. Perhaps the Virginia textbook committee didn't like the reference to Boston.
A huge advantage to eBooks is that they could be generated using a content management system that could automatically select different content based on the intended audience. However, I think it would be highly valuable if students still had access to the rest of the related content, as well. The committee may assume that the students wouldn't be interested in the ballista-stone-castle wall problem, for example, when in fact a fair number of students might find that the perfect way to learn elementary calculus.
One of the key issues in textbook creation/selection, unfortunately, is control: who is controlling what the students will study and learn? On the positive side, this can be used to try to ensure that the students have high-quality explanations and examples to learn from. On the less positive side, this control can also be used to try to limit the ideas the students are exposed to.
Whether the books are eBooks or pBooks doesn't really affect this issue of control directly, though it may be easier for students to get around limitations placed in their textbooks, if they are interested, when the content is available as eBooks. But this issue of control is a big part of what makes k-12 textbooks ridiculously expensive. The market is huge, but it is deliberately fragmented into tiny micro-markets, each with their own unique "requirements." Publishers capitalize on this, charging each state (or country, or whatever) for the full editorial process to customize a textbook to those requirements (and many of the textbooks created this way are pretty terrible, based on what I've seen in my own kids' texts).
Working from open-source books, e.g. WikiBooks (a WikiMedia project) could
, in theory, allow the school textbook committee to select portions of textbooks which meet their requirements, using a content management utility to assemble the final books into an eBook format of their choosing. This could drastically reduce the cost of the books, yes, but I'm not sure a textbook committee would be willing to make the selections themselves (they would probably hire a consultant to do it, which would still be costly) and I'm also not sure the content would be any higher in quality than what's available now.
Not to be negative on the whole idea, or anything -- I still think this would be a huge improvement over my daughters having to carry around 40-50 lb of books every day!