Friday, March 19, 2010

Rewritable Textbooks

I was excited to read* in the New York Times "Textbooks that Professors Can Rewrite Digitally". It describes a new plan by Macmillan to introduce DynamicBooks:

- "Professors will be able to reorganize or delete chapters; upload course syllabuses, notes, videos, pictures and graphs; and perhaps most notably, rewrite or delete individual paragraphs, equations or illustrations."

- DynamicBooks gives instructors the power to alter individual sentences and paragraphs without consulting the original authors or publisher.

- "The DynamicBooks editions — which can be reached online or downloaded — can be read on laptops and the iPhone from Apple. Clancy Marshall, general manager of DynamicBooks, said the company planned to negotiate agreements with Apple so the electronic books could be read on the iPad."

- "The modifiable e-book editions will be much cheaper than traditional print textbooks."

I have already replaced two of my traditional texts with my own digital curriculum (see ...Bookless Course and A Digital Anthology..., but I would be the first to admit that replacing an entire text for a course is a very labor-intensive task. How much better, to offer the students a semester-specific text with supplementary materials added and extraneous material removed. The reduced cost of this e-book would be an added incentive to go in that direction.

Of course, a teacher planning a new prep would not want this, but I think many course veterans would love the chance to customize their texts. Think of the slides that the textbook publishers provide as an ancillary. I'm sure most teachers customize these. They provide a nice foundation of information upon which the teacher can build a customized presentation.

I hope Macmillan and other publishers move in this direction, soon. I'm guessing I'll have this option for my A.P. class in the very near future.

*Thanks to Barb for spotting this article for me.


Screen shot from home page of DynamicBooks.

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