Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Musings on e-books, textbooks and the future

There have been some small news stories recently that are touching on a larger one. It's always been the case that media is better at seeing trees than forests. In this case, the trees are e-books and textbooks (I sort of like using trees as a metaphor for tree-less technology), and their impact is the forest.

The stories are the first steps toward using e-books for textbooks. All of us -- including university faculty -- recognise the incredible cost of textbooks. We also understand why their so expensive, but they remain very expensive. Frankly, I can't see e-book technology significantly reducing the cost over the long run, but that's a different story.

What I do see is more use of the e-book platform for delivering textbooks in the future, and that's the forest. As students use e-books more and more (especially when technology catches up and offers e-books in color and more useful), they are being subtly trained to like the technology. That's the forest: Once students adopt the e-book technology, they may well prefer it, which will strongly affect the book publishing business.

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