The Chronicle of Higher Education has put together a series of articles to get us thinking about the future of textbooks in a world of electronic texts, asking and attempting to answer whether students really want ebooks instead of print, and whether the new format is more than a format of the same old textbook. So here are the articles from the Wired Campus section, all available without a subscription:
“The Object Formerly Known as the Textbook.” To begin the discussion, Jeff Young reviews whether we shortchange the technology of the ebook by continuing to call it a textbook. Clearly, it is a kind of software, but will app suffice as a new name or is it really a course? If they are courses in a box, will they replace the LMS? Naming really does change our perception and influence behavior, so changing the name seems to make sense. What will your next syllabus say instead of Required Text?
“Students Get Savvier about Textbook Buying.” Marc Parry prepares you to be sad about the percentage of students that buy your required texts. You think students are discussing your uninspired lectures online, but they might just be telling whether the textbook is really required in order to pass. P2P sharing and renting are a few options your students are trying, when the text is necessary.
“Downloading a book is no different than downloading music, a movie, or a TV show,” the student says. “It’s easy, and it’s hard to catch. But I’m still pretty ambivalent. On one hand, textbook prices are ridiculous. On the other, buying them won’t bankrupt me. But I feel like if prices were low enough, I would purchase textbooks.”
“For Many Students, Print is Still King.” It warms my heart that literature textbooks, like the Norton Anthologies, are still being required in courses and purchased by students. Also glad to hear that lots of students still like books. In my own literature courses, I tried to help students save by using Dover Thrift Editions when possible. I guess the bookcase builders can remain in business a little longer.
“Pay Nothing? Easier Said than Done.” Alisha Azevedo reveals some hidden costs in the so-called free ebooks, such as purchasing add-ons, but finds some optimism that free or low-cost digital textbooks are possible. One concern is about the quality and authorship of such books, but on the other hand, the market is looking more promising to professors who want to try their hand at authorship.
“Required Texts? Really?” This one is a terrific graphic, and while I’m saying that, I’m wondering why it took us so long to recognize how much and how well we can make an argument in such graphics, when done well. This graphic shows the complicated mine field students travel in their search for a cheap book, often ending in the realization that for this one class, only the expensive new edition will do.