Friday, October 30, 2009

Free the textbook!

I've had some great comments both here and on LinkedIn, where I started a couple of discussions. One of them came from Gordon Apple, who said, "there will be a need for books and readers for a long time because that has historically been used, and much of yesterday's and today's classic publications are in the format of book."

My response (slightly edited here):

Gordon, I agree that books will be around a long time because of novels and straight nonfiction, all that stuff that is read cover to cover--what most of us think of when we think 'book.' eBook readers like Kindle will have a healthy life because of it. I just don't think the specific requirements of textbooks lend themselves to that linear, cover-to-cover format. I don't think a textbook, by nature, is actually a book at all. It is in essence a wholly different creature condemned to the confines of a book because that's the only sort of container that there's been.

When you deconstruct its uses, almost nothing a textbook does is book-like. Homework? Discussion questions? Lesson planning? Even the most straightforward content delivery is done much better with a little interactive demonstration, or with video, or at least with moving graphics. A textbook is not a written art form, like fiction and non-fiction. It's trying to accomplish something entirely different. It's trying to teach. Heck, even a live lecture frequently beats a page of textbook material for its ability to instruct and inspire, and live lectures can't beat much!

So my point is that the textbook will ultimately be freed from its cramped prison, deconstructed and reconstructed into other more suitable technologies that work better for the purpose. Books will be books. What we call a textbook will undergo a metamorphosis, flee the cocoon, and fly.

Thanks, Gordon!

1 comment:

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