iBooks Textbooks

As though in (some kind of) response to Cory’s post on HASTAC, apple launched yesterday iBooks Textbooks, basically interactive textbooks that one may purchase and use on their ipad. I find the interactive aspect of this idea potentially intriguing. I’m not sure to what extent students think of textbooks as something to interact with. Workbooks maybe, but textbooks are more of a top-down, one-way monologue. In middle school I remember we were not allowed to write in textbooks or really engage with them in any way beyond passively absorbing the information.

I’m playing around with a biology textbook now as I type (the only free one I could find) and it reminds me a lot of the Encarta Encyclopedia CD I used to use way back in the day. The textbook basically incorporates videos so you can see and hear the author talking about ants, you can zoom in on drawings of DNA helices and move them around etc. It’s certainly more fun, and the fact that this particular textbook is free says something about open/free access.


This article suggests caution: http://techland.time.com/2012/01/20/apples-ibooks-textbooks-4-reasons-to-be-skeptical/ but I’m not quite convinced that apple’s initiative is not a good thing for education.

The question of money and ownership with textbook publishing companies (similar to the questions we raised about the music industry in class) is very much at the forefront of the discussion. But from a student’s perspective, I think the novelty of it all, and the idea of interacting closely and even meaningfully with a textbook draws me in and changes the one-way model of knowledge transmission that has been my experience so far with textbooks.

  • Julian Ledford

    Very interesting, Annette! The question about money, open access, and dissertations (I thought of you, Daniel!) is very pertinent now, especially since I *just* found a free version of a dissertation online (from a school’s library) that is also being sold at Barnes & Noble for $32.34. If I buy the dissertation from B&N (ProquestLLC),  the “Digital Rights” I would have are: *** Copying: 30 pages per 30 days
    Printing: 30 pages per 30 days
    Downloading: Can be downloaded to 2 devices
    Text to Speech Enabled: Yes
    No copying and printing is allowed during a free trial.
    Copy, print, and download rights are set by the publishers, not Barnes & Noble. They have set these rights to prevent unauthorized reproduction of their textbooks.***
    Meanwhile, I don’t understand how a dissertation completed in 2010 is being sold at B&N already? Is this customary for young PhD’s to get a a little start by selling their dissertations? If so, oops.

  • Anonymous

    Julian,  I’m somewhat floored that a dissertation is being sold on B&N.  I might be a bit “innocent,” but I consider a dissertation a scholarly work (much like a huge research paper) and not a commercial work, to be sold on B&N.  It opens a whole set of questions for me.

    Annette, the whole Open Access question is the latest thing “in vogue.”  So I would have two things to say about it.  First of all, as people jump on the bandwagon, they will basically put out anything to get a piece of the pie.  Quality?  Perhaps lacking.  Look at some of the early video games.  That leads me to the second point, as Open Access becomes extremely relevant, I would think that the quality of the materials would greatly improve?  What do you think?