June 24, 2007
June 24, 2007
June 27, 2007
12.1177.1 - 12.1177.8
Preparing for Electronic Textbooks
Electronic copies of books are becoming increasingly common. Examples of these include noned- itable PDF files, or fully editable books based on the Wiki model17. Electronic books are well suited to engineering; they allow very fast updates, they are easy to access, they do not require the bulk of paper, they are easily searchable, and they allow multiple/alternate sources. So, this begs the question, why are there so few electronic books in use in higher education? In part, this is because many of the commercial books are not available electronically. Although some publishers are exploring ways to make their collections available electronically these efforts are still in their infancy.
However, a larger puzzle is in the step away from paper to purely electronic media. For example, consider the following problems. How do you write notes or slip a page into a fixed PDF file? Is the document you are viewing on your machine or on the network? Who can change the docu- ment? What happens if somebody changes a homework problem after it was assigned? Etc. Assuming that the future of the electronic book is on-line there are currently two popular models. In the Distribution model there are a small number of authors and editors who control and distrib- ute a fixed or editable format for the book. This model most closely resembles the current publish- ing model. In the open model the book would be on a Wiki or Content Management System (CMS) where multiple editors and contributors could freely change it. The open model has great potential to generate excellent electronic books, but it adds some new considerations not previ- ously encountered. The paper discusses some of the anticipated issues such as multiple versions, various notations, vandalism, and editing rights for students and faculty. In addition a set of fea- tures are proposed for the purpose of fueling discussion.
The Current Situation
Our students make extensive use of textbooks that are printed on paper. They also spend a signifi- cant amount of time carrying bags full of paper. This flies in the face of many predictions that paper would all but disappear by the millennium. Although paper has some clear benefits, it is worth asking why electronic books are not more common given laptops and other portable elec- tronic devices.
Electronic publishing does exist but it is somewhat limited. There are an ever increasing number of free electronic books available on the internet. Most of these are in PDF format, making them easy to read and search while keeping the overall file size relatively small. Some older books are stored as scanned images, preventing searches and requiring much larger file sizes, but these are still relatively small on a modern hard drive. However, publishers are reluctant to release their mainstay titles in electronic formats for fear of the copying like that seen in the music industry.
Jack, H. (2007, June), Preparing For Electronic Textbooks Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. https://peer.asee.org/2870
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