book, electronic book, or no book?

'Flat World Knowledge: Open College Textbooks' photo (c) 2010, opensource.com - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/Are you starting to feel that if your desired or required textbook is not available in an electronic version that it is out of date or just not cool? It seems that ebooks are not catching up quickly enough with publisher content, and publishers are probably just not interested in converting old textbooks when they can urge you to subscribe to new ones. Digital Textbook sales have been projected to rise to only 18% of total sales by 2014, so the chances that your favorite textbook will be available seem slim. Are you willing to take whatever’s available just to offer the electronic option, though. I thought not. Neither am I.

Or do you want to mix up your textbooks to include both print and electronic texts? Are there some texts that you think must be or are better in print? I kind of like having a writing handbook in print, because I like to imagine students actually having it next to them as they write, flipping through pages to check on a formatting or grammar issue. I know, it’s not like me to be optimistic?

Or have you gone out on a limb and decided on no required textbook in a course, depending on cobbling together a course of online material? I’m not ready for that, but I have tried it sporadically as supplemental material. In a literature course, depending on the historical period, you can find over 36.000 works in the Project Gutenberg. Could you put together a course in your field using free online news and magazine sources, supplementing it with scholarly works from our library databases? I think you could. Here’s an interesting account from 2005 of such a course: No Books, No Problem: Teaching Without a Text.

What bothers me the most about a textbook is that the whole thing cannot be reasonably covered in one semester, in my case, because I need my students to stop reading and write–a lot. And when I am required to require multiple books, I feel sorry for the students’ wallets. I kept all my college textbooks for many years, but I know that is not an option for everyone.

What have you tried or wish you had tried that is a little out of the box in textbook adoption?

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Categories: course design, document delivery, education, free stuff, open source, technology

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