Comments on: E-textbooks: still inferior to the codex versions History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Tue, 23 Sep 2014 20:42:44 +0000 hourly 1 By: Erica Tue, 21 Sep 2010 01:41:34 +0000 One of my engineering textbooks this fall had an electronic version option. My immediate reaction was “Wow, cool!” (What do you expect from a gadget-loving nerd?) I was excited about putting it on my laptop and not needing another unused lump of paper on the rather overburdened bookshelf.

Instead, I left the bookstore with the traditional textbook for two main reasons:
(1) the price difference was slightly less than a 10% savings over a new book, and something more like 5% for a used version; but more importantly,
(2) I would be unable to resell an electronic version, and this is a text I have no intention of keeping.
(Plus I don’t entirely trust the bookstore to be able to act as a helpful intermediary should something go wrong with the purchase, license, or whatever…)

I did, however, recently acquire an e-reader (a Sony, not a Kindle), and am using it for the PDFs supplied as readings for an environmental philosophy seminar I’m taking. Instead of printing out the material for each week, we just download it and do whatever we want; about half the class has opted for some sort of electronic reading instead of hard copy. I love it, but I can also see how it’s not for everyone :)

By: FrauTech Mon, 20 Sep 2010 18:42:39 +0000 We just got a Kindle and my mother-in-law started asking about whether textbooks were available on it. I find most parents/students would rather have e-books because the weight they are forced to haul around. However, from an engineering perspective, I just can’t imagine getting the same out of the Kindle vs my physical textbooks. I don’t even usually write in my books. But the ones I use have a plethora of post-it notes sticking out of it, I can quickly flip back and forth from the appendix to whatever page I’m on. Flip through really fast to find that chart that I know I’ll recognize but can’t remember the page. I think if you are forced to read something that you won’t be re-reading or won’t be analyzing (as is often the case with high school textbooks, and many a poorly taught college class) then I see the draw of an e-book. I’m also disgusted by how e-books now cost THE SAME AS the textbook version, often expire, require updates, have limited use (you’d have to lend your Kindle to somebody, as opposed to letting them borrow your book). If they were significantly cheaper I could see the advantage, but they aren’t.

Historiann you have it right, one of my favorite classes is taught without the book (there is a book, but it’s optional). All info is given in the lecture. I suspect a very enthusiastic professor could have gone even further with handouts, etc. But with lectures and custom provided homework we did just fine.

By: Historiann Mon, 20 Sep 2010 01:57:55 +0000 Dance & Jonathan: The key to lecturing instead of assigning a textbook isn’t obsessing about the details. It’s about the big picture–outlining a theme and some arguments–and then selected primary and secondary sources are there to fill in some of the details and facts.

Students who want more details can come to me for free textbooks off of the shelves of unsolicited books I get. I encourage those who are considering becoming teachers to get a textbook. But, textbooks are essentially reference material. And who wants to sit down and read an encyclopedia or a dictionary straight through for “content?”

Bing–I thought it was supposed to be a thousand monkeys at a thousand typewriters! Stupid monkeys!

By: Bing Mon, 20 Sep 2010 01:04:23 +0000 My college’s writing program ebook is the bane of my existence. It is expensive, web-based, and cobbled together by monkeys who were speaking different languages. So…so…awful.


By: dance Sun, 19 Sep 2010 22:21:11 +0000 Historiann, do you have a post on the lecture-as-textbook? I love the idea, but every time I try it I find that I just can’t cover enough during lecture to provide the scaffolding they need, or that I’m giving REALLY BORING lectures.

By: Teaching history survey classes without a textbook. « More or Less Bunk Sun, 19 Sep 2010 21:44:38 +0000 [...] history survey classes without a textbook. 19 09 2010 This fine post from Historiann is about a very strange NPR story on e-readers in the college classroom. It and the [...]

By: Matt L Sun, 19 Sep 2010 20:20:19 +0000 I’ve looked at several electronic editions for Western Civ. None of them have impressed me to the point where I would assign them. Historiann and several other commenters are right, the e-version would have to be better than the paper version before I would assign it.

Also, the e-versions are not that much cheaper than used paperback versions of the same textbook. I also think that they are kind of a rip-off because they expire after a fixed period of time. Personally, I do not see that as a good value. Then again, most of my students sell their textbooks as soon as they can, usually to but beer. So maybe they never plan on keeping the book anyway.

That said, I have had several students use the e-version of my current documents collection, Discovering the Western Past. They seemed to like using it on their laptop for the sake of portability. Their results for the class were no different than that of their peers. So from a teaching standpoint, e-books are not bad. The technology would seem to be ‘good enough’ for individual adopters, depending on personal preference. This leads me to believe that the e-book will have a gradual adoption, not now, but maybe in ten or twenty years they will be ubiquitous.

By: Historiann Sun, 19 Sep 2010 14:04:43 +0000 koshem Bos–I agree, and I’m open to using them when they offer more than a codex book offers. But only when they’re better for my purposes than the codex.

I’m skeptical that that’s ever going to happen in my professional lifetime, however, because I see a fundamental conflict in the development of e-books: Apple or Kindle or whoever wants to sell them to as many people as possible and make them desirable because they’re “cool” and “hip.” But the needs and requirements of the academic marketplace may be quite different, or even at odds, with sales to a larger buying public.

I’m sure that a lot of professors who teach music, or work with oral history, or who otherwise use audiofiles have found that MP3s have made audio sources much more available for their classroom use. But the iPod wasn’t developed so that music professors could access worldwide musical history files in a matter of seconds. I see my task as sorting out and using the technologies I find most useful for teaching and learning my subject–whether that’s photocopies, online journal articles, codex or E-books, a wipeboard and a dry erase marker, DVDs, or whatever.

By: Comrade PhysioProf Sun, 19 Sep 2010 10:57:02 +0000

A more accurate comparison would be requiring all individual lectures and course material to conform to a single electronic format.

Check this shitte out (particularly bullets 1 and 5):

By: koshem Bos Sun, 19 Sep 2010 02:29:32 +0000 It’s early on in the life of e-texts. In a few years, it will be much richer and easier to use. Even the e-readers will be totally different.

Even our laptop tools, e.g. Word and Adobe, have to improve vastly to catch up with current needs let alone future needs.