I recently read an article about how students need books, not textbooks. As I read, I found myself agreeing that, especially for literature classes, textbooks are not needed anymore. For literature classes, many of the pieces found within the textbook are no longer under copyright protection and thus freely available online. Why should schools be paying huge sums of money for these books when the content within them is available for free? Getting rid of these clunky, old books and replacing them with eBooks would not only provide motivation to students to read the stories, it would also allow the school to spend some money on new books that can be used to create a love of learning in students.
No one likes picking up a textbook. Often the word alone is enough to cause moaning and grumbling among students. Many students will do anything they can to avoid opening a textbook. By moving to an electronic version of the content, students are more likely to enjoy interacting with the material. As an added bonus, eTextbooks allow for much more interaction than a traditional textbook. eTextbooks are capable of including videos and links to websites for students to learn more about a subject.
With the exception of a few students, most are unable to relate to or enjoy the classic pieces of literature required for most English classes. Because these are typically the only books they are exposed to as students, many develop a belief that they don’t enjoy reading, when in fact, they simply have not been exposed to literature that interests them. If schools were to stop spending money on books that can be legally found online for free, they would be able to invest in a wider range of current novels. In this manner, students would have a chance to explore new types of books and possibly discover a passion for reading they never knew existed.
But what about subjects other than literature and English where content is not as easy to find for free? I would still suggest that the textbook as we know it does not help. Many textbooks are outdated as soon as they are published and their expensive price means that schools use them for an average of seven years. Technological advancements over the last few years have created a solution to this problem: the eTextbook. With eTextbooks, publishers are able to push out updates as needed; ensuring textbooks are always up to date and relevant.
eTextbooks also have the added advantage of being electronic. This means they are not limited in the way paper books are. eTextbooks can incorporate video, audio and outside resources into their pages. They are not limited by what can be printed on a paper page.
In addition, moving away from traditional textbooks saves a ton of shelf space. eTextbooks only require digital storage space, meaning that all the room currently used to store textbooks can now be converted for another use.
Of course, eTextbooks still need to be stored when not in use. For this, consider using an online digital content management solution. MediaCAST provides a way for schools to easily store and manage their digital textbooks. (The newly added Media Exchange even comes pre-loaded with all those books that are now part of the public domain.)
Licensing of digital materials can be problematic without the proper tools to manage them. The MediaCAST platform ensures you are never using more versions of the eTextbook than you have paid for copies of. Additionally, add-on modules like the iPad App ensure that all copies are automatically returned to the school’s digital library at the end of the course or school year.
While students should still be exposed to paper books, there are better ways to do it than through the traditional textbooks used in so many classrooms today. What are your thoughts on eTextbooks versus traditional textbooks?