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Old 11-16-2011, 10:11 AM   #1
Steven Lyle Jordan
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In the 21st-Century University, Let's Ban Books

This is the title of a Chronicle of Higher Education commentary by Marc Prensky, in which he suggests the first university to literally replace all books with electronic readers and ebooks will make history and usher in a new era of education.

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Why, in a world in which choice and personal preference are highly valued, would any college want to create such a mandate? Because it makes a bold statement about the importance of moving education into the future. It is, in a sense, only a step removed from saying, "We no longer accept theses on scrolls, papyrus, or clay tablets. Those artifacts do still exist in the world, but they are not the tools of this institution." Or: "In this institution we have abandoned the slide rule. Those who find it useful and/or comforting can, of course, use it, but not here."
Prensky describes a process of transitioning a university and its students from rigid books to essentially an enhanced reading and studying experience, citing the many additions to a text that are possible with ereading, from web links and multimedia, to commentary on text and/or its preparation, to networked discussions. It would be the professor's job to decide what enhanced material was useful and relevant to their students and curricula. He describes the process as transformational as well as educational, as significant as moving from the slide rule to the pocket calculator in the late 20th century.

Also notable is a comment about the outgoing technology, books, that I'm not sure I've heard put this way before.

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Third, and I believe this to be the greatest advantage, ideas would be freed from the printed page, where they have been held captive for too many centuries. In addition to being a dissemination mechanism and an archive, the physical book is, in many ways, a jail for ideas—once a book is read, closed, and shelved, for most people it tends to stay that way. Many of us have walls lined with books that will never be reopened, most of what is in them long forgotten.
A commentary worth checking out in its entirety.
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Old 11-16-2011, 11:50 AM   #2
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Meh

I support digital textbooks, but they aren't quite there yet. Forcing students to surrender paper books is a terrible plan.

Whatever institution tries to push this through will get about two or three days' worth of media attention and commentary, and would then have to live with the decision. Whoop de doo.
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Old 11-16-2011, 01:42 PM   #3
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I am continuously surprised that Universities haven't started switching to ereaders sooner. More convenient, no lines at the university store, and it may lower the university's' costs.
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Old 11-16-2011, 04:45 PM   #4
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It would not surprise me if more universities did this, since hardly any students actually keep their textbooks - they sell them at the first available opportunity.

One of my part-time jobs is teaching history on the side, and if/when I wind up teaching again, I plan to switch to more public-domain ebooks to cut down on the cost of textbooks, which is ridiculous.
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Old 11-16-2011, 05:07 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Apache View Post
I am continuously surprised that Universities haven't started switching to ereaders sooner. More convenient, no lines at the university store, and it may lower the university's' costs.
Apache
Might lower the university's costs, but it won't lower the student's costs one cent. Especially if the textbook companies sell the students self- destructing e-textbooks.
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Old 11-17-2011, 01:21 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jonathanmoeller View Post
It would not surprise me if more universities did this, since hardly any students actually keep their textbooks - they sell them at the first available opportunity.

One of my part-time jobs is teaching history on the side, and if/when I wind up teaching again, I plan to switch to more public-domain ebooks to cut down on the cost of textbooks, which is ridiculous.
Yeah, but it sucks when you have to use the same book across multiple semesters, but you can only buy it for six months at a time. In some of my classes, I've had the ebooks cost nearly as much as the paper books, only access it for 6 months, and was used in back to back semesters. Stupid to be forced to rebuy the same thing.
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Old 11-17-2011, 01:40 AM   #7
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we are just not there yet. Universities can't impose something like that when most textbooks are not yet (legally) available in any electronic format. And most finance textbooks certainly aren't - that's the field I can comment on...
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Old 11-17-2011, 04:10 AM   #8
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I think this is a bad idea. A really bad one. And it has a simple reason - the lifespan of the information carrier.

A clay tablet or a stone tablet from ancient Egypt or Babylon has been readable 6000 years ago and will be readable in 6000 years if it doesn't break.
Medieval books made from very high-quality paper are readable for hundreds of years.
Modern books made from cheap paper are readable for decades if handled properly.
Newspapers have to be carefully treated in order for them to be readable for more than 10 years. Otherwise they fall apart.
CDs and DVDs may have a lifespan of 50 to 100 years - who knows? Self-burnt disks only a fraction of that time (5-10 years).
Ever tried to read from a 10-year-old floppy disk? Forget it.

And now ebooks? Really? When people from the year 2111 will want to read something from today, will they use the same filetypes we use? Do you use the same filetypes you used 10, 20 years ago? The same devices? Ever tried to install an application on Windows 7 that was designed for Windows 95? Or DOS?

Our modern information carriers are not designed for a lifespan of decades and centuries. They are designed to be fast and use as little space as possible. But remember how fragile all this stuff is. A lot of footage from Apollo 11? Gone! The Metropolis-movie? Many of it lost until a surprise-discovery a few years ago. Would you like to have the great works of mankind be stored in the same way? The declaration of independence of the USA? The Bible? Really?
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Old 11-17-2011, 05:11 AM   #9
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Cool Benefits here, well done publishers .......

What a great idea !

Of course, it is plainly obvious that the publishers will realise their social responsibility and support for education, and sell the etexts at very reasonable prices, thus helping hard-pressed students.

In fact they may sensibly offer to sell the texts "on lease", again at a reasonable price, for the length of the student's course, accepting that that is all most will need them for.

It's as plain as the nose on yer face.
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Old 11-17-2011, 07:09 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by carpetmojo View Post
What a great idea !

Of course, it is plainly obvious that the publishers will realise their social responsibility and support for education, and sell the etexts at very reasonable prices, thus helping hard-pressed students.

In fact they may sensibly offer to sell the texts "on lease", again at a reasonable price, for the length of the student's course, accepting that that is all most will need them for.

It's as plain as the nose on yer face.
Print publishers realizing any kind of responsibility? If you believe that, I've got a battleship and a huge statue of Sam Houston to sell you.

These are the companies that offer a different version of each textbook for each state, carefully designed to match the ideology of that state's board of education. Responsibility? Gimmie a break.

"On Lease" simply means they get to re- sell it every semester at full price if a student ever needs to refer back to it. $100 now, and $100 every four months. And yes, the kids will have to buy it; what's to stop the textbook companies from providing a list of who *hasn't* bought it to the prof for harassment?
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Old 11-17-2011, 07:26 AM   #11
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These are the companies that offer a different version of each textbook for each state, carefully designed to match the ideology of that state's board of education. Responsibility? Gimmie a break.
Most text book publishers don't even offer a different flavor for each state. Many of them produce versions that follow the curriculum of some of the most populous states (California, Texas, New York, etc.) and expect the other states to choose the one that comes closest. Even if they did make them in a Baskin Robbins style 50+ flavors, they would only be serving their customers. It's hardly the text book publishers fault that we don't have a national curriculum.
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Old 11-17-2011, 04:57 PM   #12
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When I read a history textbook, I don't just underline & highlight (which e-readers do just fine). I write notes in the margins. I bracket sections. I add sub-headings. I stick post-it notes on the tops of pages. I easily flip back and forth among pages & chapters that I've modified to help me remember.

E-readers offer digital equivalents of most of these actions, but the overall sum of the parts doesn't come close to the ease & effectiveness of a paper textbook.

I can't understand forcing students to use e-textbooks at this point in time. Perhaps in the future, but e-textbooks aren't yet good enough.

P.S. - I should say that I used to use textbooks in this way. School is in my misty past.
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Old 11-18-2011, 12:37 AM   #13
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Print publishers realizing any kind of responsibility?
That depends upon the publisher. But since we're talking about textbook publishers, I will wholeheartedly agree.

Quote:
"On Lease" simply means they get to re- sell it every semester at full price if a student ever needs to refer back to it. $100 now, and $100 every four months.
From what I've heard, electronic textbooks are somewhat cheaper than their print version but the student gets to resell the print one (or keep it). I remember buying used textbooks for about 30% of what they cost new, electronic textbooks will never approach that price point. I have also sold textbooks for 70% of what they cost new. Even with electronic textbooks costing less, the resale value means that they are still ahead with print textbooks. That, and reselling textbooks helps out other businesses. (In my school's case, it was the student's union. That kept their dues lower, saving student's even more money.)


Quote:
And yes, the kids will have to buy it; what's to stop the textbook companies from providing a list of who *hasn't* bought it to the prof for harassment?
Believe it or not, most profs hate textbook publishers and many will go out of their way to ensure that textbooks will be useful across courses while accommodating for differences in old editions. A few will even suggest alternative books if the student wants something more advanced or if a group of students wish to pool a collection of different titles to share (i.e. there is no expectation that you will buy what is on the course outline). The only exception to that rule was a prof who wrote the textbook that he was using and demanded that everyone has their own copy. Then again, I had another prof who wrote the course textbook and gave students permission to photocopy it.

So yeah, I think that electronic textbooks will end up being a bad option for students. But I don't think that profs are as evil as you were implying.

Last edited by BWinmill; 11-18-2011 at 12:37 AM. Reason: Fixed markup.
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Old 11-18-2011, 01:13 AM   #14
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Given that the current state of digital text books is rather horrendous I am not in favor of this.

Most companies do one of two things, either use an odd ball DRM that restricts you to using a special program to view it (which are often Windows only), or have everything on a webpage. Neither is that great, and also very common with both is that you get locked into a limited time span. Six months is as long as I've seen it.

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From what I've heard, electronic textbooks are somewhat cheaper than their print version but the student gets to resell the print one (or keep it).
Somewhat, but usually aint much. One class I had, had two books from the same publisher, and was meant as a pair (one book had the content, and the other had the exercises and practice tips). Ebook of the main book was $10 less than the paper book, but the ebook of the second book was $9 more than the paper book. Ooh boy, I would have saved a whopping dollar.

In my accounting classes (I'm a compsci major, so tell me again why accounting classes are manditory?), the ebook averages about $30 cheaper (which, when you're talking $200+ books, isn't that big of a deal). The crappy thing, is some companies upsell you. They give kickbacks to the schools to use their homework system, and charge you to access the homework (McGraw Hill averages about $45). I had a few classes, where that was not announced until after classes had started (wasn't in syllabus or in any thing given prior to start of class), so had to shell that out of my pocket, since was too late to try and use financial aid.
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Old 11-18-2011, 05:16 AM   #15
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No need to ban them if you're " tidying " up Wall Street - just grab all 5,000+ and throw them in a dumpster, put a guard around it so no-one can save any, and don't even cover them, so the rain'll destroy them.

See Los Angeles Times / The Independent today.

Sheesh......
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