Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue


States Adopt Digital Textbooks–What Took Them So Long?

For the un-initiated (of which I was a member until very recently) many states have what they call adoption state review boards for approving educational and instructional materials/textbooks for use in their school systems.

Well, these ‘know-what’s-best-for-you’ review boards have finally begun to approve digital formatted textbooks as legitimate…primarily to save costs in this currently ruptured economy…but, hopefully, they also realize the new digital formats encourage student interaction and engagement with more complex content.

Cool insights from “Insights from the Editor” at Simba Media Intelligence:

In an effort to increase student engagement with content while decreasing spending on textbooks, adoption state review boards are incorporating digital programs into their strategy. According to 2010 National Textbook Adoption Scorecard and 2011 Outlook, a new report published by Simba Information, the lingering recession is pushing adoption boards to reconsider how they define the textbook in the 21st century.

Expanding the adoption process to include digital programs is a growing trend in the adoption states, first pioneered in West Virginia. Motivated by anticipated cost savings, various adoption boards have purchased more digital materials than in previous years; however, they have not yet begun to replace textbooks.

Quite often, there is confusion in the relationship between print textbooks and their digital counterparts. Some people incorrectly assume that they compete with each other, when in fact, they are the same product offered through a different medium.

Top publishers, such as Pearson’s enVisionMATH and Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt’s Journeys, offer a multimedia-formatted digital program that mixes a full digital path with print textbooks. Simba expects publishers to expand digital offerings, especially for reading, in their bids for Texas adoptions next year.

Next year may well be the strongest outlet for digital programs in textbook adoption states we will see.

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The Textbook Market: Not a Free or Fair Market

I hate scammers! And the textbook publishing industry has been scamming students for far too long.

Textbook publishers seem to be able to dictate to teachers and college professors what books they have to use and what inflated prices the students have to pay.

This I fault the professors for; they should have stood up long ago to help the students, who are overburdened in the first place. Shame on the educators!…Do you suppose they (or the learning institutions who employ them) are receiving kick-backs from the publishers at the students’ expense?

Zach Ammerman, Opinion Co-Editor for the Indiana Daily Student, wrote this analytical piece:

Textbooks: Held captive by publishers’ prices

College textbooks are expensive.

University students are a captive market for textbooks. At a regular bookstore, if a book is too expensive, it likely won’t be bought. At a college bookstore, however, students are required by their professors to purchase books for their classes regardless of the exorbitant price tag that may be printed on the back of the book.

They either have to dig into their wallets and pay an inflated price for a book that isn’t worth half of what it costs or not buy the book and suffer educationally.

Students don’t have a choice but to be ripped off.

Students need protection from textbook companies taking advantage of them. Unnecessary textbook industry practices are designed precisely to make them pay more than they need to for books that they are required to purchase.

In short, we’re all being scammed.

On average, textbook companies come out with a new edition for every textbook they offer every three years.

Many of these revisions are entirely unnecessary, adding no new information to textbooks in fields like geography or mathematics that have had few or no developments since the last edition.

It is highly doubtful Antarctica has moved too much since the last edition of an atlas came out, and yet atlases are updated about once every three years along with other college educational materials.

With every new edition of a textbook, publishing companies increase the cost of the book by an average of 45 percent over the cost of the older version of the same textbook, even if no new information has been added.

If these revisions were actually adding information from new developments in the fields these textbooks address, these expensive revisions might at least have some benefit.

But more than 75 percent of university faculty surveyed nation-wide in 2004 indicated that they found these revisions unjustified and unnecessary at least half of the time.

Basically, we’re paying more for the same old information in the last book.

Another questionable tactic that publishing companies use to force college students to pay more for their required educational materials is the process of “bundling” expensive extras like DVDs and CDs with their textbooks. More than 50 percent of college textbooks in the United States are “bundled” in this manner.

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