What are we, chopped liver?

19 01 2012

As your king, I occasionally make pronouncements about the future of electronic textbooks and other academic matters. However, a good king knows where the borders of his kingdom lie. Therefore, I would never try to foment revolution in other monarchs’ kingdoms, especially other professors who deserve the same right to control their classrooms in order to improve the learning experience there as I expect in mine.

Yet some radicals want to go stir up our subjects for their own ends. As USA Today explains:

With their promise of ubiquity, convenience and perhaps affordability, e-textbooks have arrived in fits and starts throughout college campuses. And publishers and book resellers are spending millions wooing students to their online stores and e-reader platforms as mobile technology improves the readability of the material on devices such as tablet computers.

[Emphasis added].

Hey edtech people! You realize that it’s professors, not students, who pick what textbooks get assigned, don’t you? What exactly are you doing to woo us? Indeed, convincing students to demand e-books might actually piss us all off, making the adoption of electronic texts less rather than more likely. You’d think a little market research would have been enough to make that discovery.

Seriously, I see that college students want to use Facebook in their courses. Do you really think most of us are ever going to let that happen? Saying no to our students is part of our job description.

I sure hope Apple doesn’t make this same mistake. If they do though, I am more than prepared to work for them anytime as a consultant as my kingdom’s revenues are nothing like those of the business professors a few kingdoms over from me and I’m too much of a pacifist to ever declare war.




4 responses

19 01 2012

Actually — the article is ambiguous in a way — I discovered recently that most of the texts from one of the major textbook publishers are available both in electronic and paper form. Students can “buy” access to the e-book for less than the physical book costs in the bookstore, but they can’t sell it back or share it — So, you may assign a particular textbook, but the publisher may persuade the student to do an end-run around the bookstore and buy the e-version of it online.

19 01 2012
Jonathan Rees

Actually, we can ban e-books from the classroom. At present, I’m working on the indirect method. Can’t footnote it? That’s a problem. You can’t follow along with the discussion in the text? There goes your class participation grade.

I’ll withhold judgement on whether such drastic steps are really necessary, but I can say that if publishers actually did work with professors some of these problems could be taken care of easily.

20 01 2012
Assign whatever book you actually teach. « More or Less Bunk

[…] Apple make the exact same mistake that I worried about yesterday morning? It’s hard for me to tell as I didn’t get enough time online yesterday to figure out […]

24 02 2012
An open letter to the college textbook publishing industry. « More or Less Bunk

[…] I shouldn’t have expected you all to figure this out as the educational technology industry hasn’t figured this out either, but a guy can dream, can’t […]

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