Saturday, October 9, 2010

Textbook buffet

With the increasing use of free open educational resourses and the growth of e-books I've been waiting for the established publishers to come up with an interesting response. Many still think they can sell e-books at roughly the same price as the print version but I simply can't see many falling for that one. The print book for me is a proud possession to place on the shelf as concrete evidence of what I read. An e-book is simply not visible and I doubt if I would even want to keep it at all. Once I've read it I might as well just dump it. Furthermore if I can borrow e-books from a library I am highly unlikely to ever want to buy one.

It's similar with audo books. I enjoy listening to them on long car journeys but I have never wanted to listen at home; I would rather read. As a result I have never bought an audio book, I just borrow them from the library. They just don't have the same value on the bookshelf in the living room as the printed book.

I've just read an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, As Textbooks Go Digital, Will Professors Build Their Own Books?, which describes a new initiative from textbook publishers. University teachers are now able to select chapters from the publisher's books and order a customised textbook for their students.A sort of textbook buffet where the books can either be printed or delivered as an e-book, often involving considerable savings for the students.

One such scheme is from publisher McGraw-Hill:

"The new Create system lets professors go to a Web site and select sections of 4,000 McGraw-Hill books, thousands of articles and case studies, or any document that the professors themselves upload. A price tag displays how much the resulting book will cost. Professors can then choose whether to make the book available to students as a printed book or an e-book. In a demonstration for The Chronicle this week, a book on health care cost about $6 as an e-book but jumped to $16.96 as printed book."

Of course you can only choose chapters from McGraw-Hill books but it's good to see some new ideas from the publishers. I love the spread of free learning resources but realise that in the end some kind of new commercial model is going to emerge. This could be one way for the textbook publishers to offer a worthwhile service and make some money out of it.

No comments:

Post a Comment