Encounters of a Digital Textbook

There has been a huge focus on using digital textbooks, in an effort to save money and engage the students more. There has been moderate success in California with math and science textbooks since there has been a state mandate that all textbooks would be digital and open source. But that is another story, or another article since there have been plenty of articles published.

My main confusion when doing the research was the item has a license limit. How can the book expire? Two of the digital textbook companies were charging $80 or $100 for a digital version of the textbook – and it expired after either 180 or 360 days. What if you wanted to use it for reference or needed it for a follow up course? I frequently go back and use previous textbooks for reference. In college I justified spending tons of money on textbooks because there was a chance to exchange textbooks with friends. Sometimes we intentionally took the course different semesters so we could trade, the old-fashioned economy style. There is digital textbook publisher that stands out substantially as being worthwhile. Freeload Press offers multiple tier pricing opinion, with variable options like number of computers, ability to print off pages, length of license, study guides, etc. I would be more enthusiastic about digital textbooks if more publishers were like this.

There are some great open source or free eBooks that I will enjoy – like Project Gutenberg. However, that does not mean it is the best solution for a textbook. I am happy to have access to some classic books that I won’t mind re-reading now that there is not a paper assessment attached to the conclusion. In general I found there was a general lack of Spanish digital textbooks.

There were some free/open options for digital textbooks. Some of the resources are new and need to be further developed by a coalition of interested parties (like teachers).

Not all are worthy of the title ‘textbook’ , but it might be time for a shift away from the dependence on the textbook anyway.  The fundamental problem with the status quo of textbooks is that they are binding. Yes, both literally and figuratively. Textbooks might be acceptable and comfortable for linear thinkers, but what about non-linear thinkers or thinkers who think along a different line?

My Digital Textbook Experience:

For my current graduate class I am using the digital book instead of the paper version. I could pretend that it was for the sake of research; however the truth is I forgot to buy the book in time to get it shipped to me. But it has provided a greater understanding of the benefits and definitely the frustrations of using a digital textbook.

The book is The Back of the Napkin – not a traditional textbook, but it is very appropriate for a media design class. A benefit of the digital version – it was slightly cheaper. I bought it online through Barnes and Noble, it was $10 cheaper than the hardback version they were trying to sell in the school bookstore. I read it through B&N Reader – which was free to download for my computer and my iPod Touch. It is also running a beta program, so the eBook is Lendable, which means you can email it to a friend and they have access to it for 14 days. Only one person can read the book at a time, just like a traditional paper bound book. However, I was able to have the book open on both my laptop and my iPod Touch. Which would be great for students who don’t always carry around a heavy laptop. They would rarely be away from their iPods.

Another function I really liked on the eBook is the ability to highlight and/or leave comments for sections of text or diagrams. It was so easy on my laptop. It was very frustrating on the iPod Touch. Instead of highlighting like I wanted on the iPod Touch, it kept changing the pages. I tried multiple different settings but I just quit trying and just read. Once a section was highlighted or a comment was added, you could jump directly to it from an interactive list. You could navigate the book by last page read, table of contents, bookmarks, annotations, or highlights. The navigation was practical and usable.

Not everything was wonderful. It would be frustrating to use a digital textbook if not everyone in the class was because the page numbers do not match up. On the iPod Touch this is especially obvious when the book has 617 pages instead of 273 pages in the hardbound copy. The digital version did not offer anything additional, it was strictly text with the book illustrations, no links or digital benefits. If I had bought the paper copy, I would have been able to bookmark and highlight and possibly written annotations. I was not blown away by this digital book, but I would have to check out other publishers and some actual textbooks before I make a judgment. I should just be grateful that the digital book saved me since I arrived to class after forgetting to buy my book, and all the local bookstores were sold out of it. The only way I could have done the reading assignments was the instantaneous delivery of the content in digital form.   So thank you BN.com!

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About Lisa Butler

Middle school teacher of Social Studies and Spanish, tech trainer, Flocabulary MC, Nearpod PioNear, and Edcamp Hershey Founder. I have embraced the power of blogging and reviewing products. If I am not doing something with ed or tech, I am probably reading, baking, running, or traveling.
This entry was posted in Random Ramblings & Advice Received and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Encounters of a Digital Textbook

  1. Pingback: Adventures with Technology

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