Textbooks: Evolving, but not Disappearing

Via ArsTechnica’s Future U series of articles:


Textbooks are a thing of the past, says the common wisdom. Well, the common wisdom of the Technorati maybe. The problem with that thinking is that the number one publisher in the world is Pearson, a textbook publisher, who brought in $7.75 billion in 2009….To say textbooks are big business is like saying bullets are ouchie….So writing the obituary for textbooks would be putting the cart before the horse. But pretending like they are not changing their shape, if not their nature, is to proclaim, from one’s buggy, that automobiles are a passing fad.

On the other hand,

teachers are mainly bringing in content from materials available on the Internet, the teachers and students are producing their own content, and we provide some district-wide subscriptions to additional online content. Students and teachers are wanting relevant materials that are provided just in time rather than static textbooks.

The article concludes:

In much the same way that the classroom of the future is evolving away from the unidirectional transmission of knowledge via lecture and toward dialogue and project-based learning, the textbook is responding to the same strains. Like the classroom, the textbook is likely to become more collaborative and customizable.

Collaborative and customizable textbooks? I do think it depends on the class. It’s not like history is changing, for example, so I’m not as worried about having a static collection of facts. And basic scientific principles don’t (always) change that fast. But classes like IR and philosophy could benefit from fluid content. How do you see this trend playing out in your classroom?