Monday, March 3, 2014

The Future of Textbooks

I should know something more than I do about the future of the college textbook is, having co-authored one that was published last month: The Practical Handbook for Writers, the 7th edition of a book by Donald Pharr, Ph.D. and myself and available from  This new publisher of a book that goes back to the first edition I did in 1979 has an online version, a printed version, and even an iphone version.

As a conventional teacher, I have always avoided online teaching and use as few online resources as I can--at least for serious work. I benefit greatly from articles and reviews on the Internet, but for a textbook, I could not recommend that students merely download chapters of our book, cheaper though this is.

Why? Because having a spiral-bound source of reference as the student writes is simply handy. But I'm old fashioned.

Just recently I found a piece (online) by Meredith Broussard, who doesn't allow e-books in her journalism class.  She has tried them and found them more trouble than they're worth, with students needing charging cords and outlets and complaining about tech issues.

All the two-minute interruptions were adding up, she writes, and she did not want to spend her time in tech support.  She finds e-texts "disruptive technology," and I can see why.

Still, for those who are working online exclusively or who write independently, I am glad that our handbook in its new edition is available in a way that can be downloaded. End of commercial.

Whether printed textbooks will soon (ten years?) be a thing of the past in U.S. education is possible, though regrettable. Options are desirable just as the reading of any printed text must remain an option. Much has been written on this topic.

When I read about a college library that has gone digital, eliminating all the books, I cringe in horror. I do not want to live in such a world.

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