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Old 10-12-2006, 02:29 PM   #1
TadW
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Article on current status with e-textbooks

There's an article on US News that discusses the current status with e-textbooks. It mentions various sites like textbookrevolution.org, textbookmedia.com and is extremely bullish on the future of digital books:

"As the publishing landscape changes, academics are already thinking ahead to the next generation of print textbooks. A group of 50 leading teachers, technologists, and scientists studied the problem for the National Academy of Sciences last summer. They concluded that the next texts will look more like guidebooks travelers use to explore new cities than textbooks. They predicted that they will be far slimmer, customizable, and more challenging than their current incarnations."

So far I can tell digital textbooks have failed even worse than general e-books by publishers introducing ridiculous DRM measures (e.g. expiring content) and offering absolutely no price advantage to the student.
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Old 10-13-2006, 09:24 AM   #2
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Aw, the link is gone!

I suppose I can't be surprised e-texts aren't being offered for less... after all, it's supposed to be the convenience factor that's the draw, right? Still, I'd also hope they'd put some work into the e-texts, providing searching, and hopefully highlighting, bookmarks, etc which users need. If they don't provide that, it's going to be hard to sell them.

Of course, a lot of that depends on the reader, too, so it's not completely their fault that things haven't taken off.
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Old 10-13-2006, 09:40 AM   #3
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This link seems to still work. Is it the same article?
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Old 10-14-2006, 06:01 PM   #4
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Don't know, I didn't see the first one. But I can see the second link, Bob, thanks.

Okay, done reading.

As the article suggests, the real value of the modern communication revolution is the fact that new and updated information is so available that traditional textbooks are almost doing students a disservice. Using the web to access up-to-the-minute information and multimedia will present a richer learning experience. E-books could also participate, and the "textbook" becomes a CD or DVD with text, multimedia and web links.

It's a valid point that all that newly-produced multimedia by the textbook companies costs, and it is expected to have to pay extra for that. But a great deal of that multimedia should be available from other sources, many of whom might offer their media to textbook companies at "student discount" prices, or even free. With collaborations between companies like, say, Brittanica Publishing and Discovery Communications, or Collegiate Press and CNN, the cost of educational CDs should be reduceable to entertainment DVD prices, $20-40 each.

Last edited by Steven Lyle Jordan; 10-14-2006 at 06:15 PM.
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Old 10-14-2006, 06:32 PM   #5
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I think sometimes the multimedia is overrated also. It's more glitz than content. An effective simulation or animation can help a lot, as can a nice picture or diagram. But when I hear multimedia in the context of learning, it usually is a sign for me to avoid the materials.

Similarly, I tend to think that interactive fiction and interactive media is overrated. If it's simply a link to more info, great. If it's a complex web of alternate text or video, I think it's just not worth the enormous additional effort. My thinking is that text is here to stay. I think there's even a place for novels in this multimedia and tv and web snippits world. It's probably one of those things that will swing back and forth from books being popular for a generation to not interesting and back again. But I can't see them going away. Movies, for example, just aren't an equivalent substitute. Just like teaching videos are not a complete substitute for textbooks.

BTW, I like your tag line, Steve!... "Sfi-Fi. E-books. A match made in the 21st century."
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Old 10-15-2006, 12:47 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Russell
BTW, I like your tag line, Steve!... "Sfi-Fi. E-books. A match made in the 21st century."
Yeah... concise, descriptive... and it swings, baby!

And also yeah, multimedia content very often is just fluff, put there to make electronic content look cool. Hopefully, we'd see a much better quality of digital multimedia, once MM providers have to compete with each other (or with MM newcomers) for collaborations with publishers. It would not benefit them financially in the short term, of course, but being included on digital references would provide exposure to their brand, for market recognition and long-term publicity.
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Old 10-22-2006, 06:42 AM   #7
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Marketing and price focus are 2 of the main reasons MM content is often just fluff in rich media environments. Good contextual MM, well thought out to aid the educational experience can greatly increase the effectiveness of a text book. If MM content is seen as a "marketing differenciator" or a "cost of doing business" and MM content is sought for publishing rather than sound pedagogic reasons, I agree with Bob - run a mile and stick to your paper texts.

Good sound MM content is likely to have to be created, adding, not reducing the cost of on online textbook in pure production terms.
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Old 10-22-2006, 11:20 AM   #8
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Physics texts

http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/3759
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