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October 8, 2008   2 Comments

Digital textbooks

You are all probably aware that this is my particular preoccupation, but I thought this article from Inside Higher Ed yesterday was worth sharing with everyone. It has an interesting analysis of the crumbling business model for large textbook publishers,¬†who have been¬†the key supplier of course-related material, which plays nicely into some of the discussions we’ve been engaging in. The comments following the article are also very much worth reading:¬†

The key concept this raises for me is that of ‘unfair’. Because I see this from the inside, I wonder if when¬†students say prices are ‘unfair’ they recognize how much labour goes into a textbook. Content¬†creators (writers, photographers, graphic designers) have¬†to be¬†paid,¬†the people who fact check, line edit, and proofread have to be paid. The people¬†who design and typeset have to be paid.¬†Do without these aspects and students and profs complain about texts being ‘unengaging’ and ‘full of errors’.

One of the deeply troubling aspects of open source to me is the question¬†of payment for creators. In the great open source future, will everyone just be expected to volunteer their labour?¬† Is the assumption that only the truly driven will create resources, because they will do so despite not being paid for it? If that is the case, is it okay? We pay people now for their intellectual labour (for example, the Davids’ salaries as paid by UBC) – will a system emerge that takes on this role?

I’m curious to hear the group’s thoughts on these issues. And despite where I sit right now, I’m genuinely curious about, and open to,¬†alternative futures – I think that’s why we’re all in this course.


October 8, 2008   10 Comments