Textbooks? eBooks? Bespoke Books.

Although we’re still settling into the semester, you might want to start thinking ahead to your courses for next semester.  Not only should you consider scheduling issues, but also your textbook budget.  A recent article in this week’s edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education (“New Digital Tools Let Professors Tailor Their Own Textbooks for Under $20”) revealed a trend in the textbook market that will probably appeal to students and professors.  (It certainly grabbed my attention.)  As you may know, textbook prices, whether for new or used items, continue to soar, leading us to shop around as informed consumers and find the lowest price for required materials.  After all, an education is an investment and we hope for solid R.O.I in the long run given all the books we read and assignments we complete.

Specifically, this article explains how several relatively young companies and websites work with professors to help them create streamlined, current textbooks addressing not only traditional subject-specific elements, but also web articles, case studies, and even relevant chapters from other sources and books.  It also allows the professors to use open-source content, another important aspect to teaching materials.  Custom publishing has been utilized by professors previously, but it’s typically involved a tailored hardcover book.  This concept allows them to have all of their class readings in a centralized, bound book without requiring students to print out any additional materials.  This alleviates time scanning in articles and copying documents, case studies and other chapters, and presents a streamlined bundle to students that also adheres to copyright laws and intellectual property standards.

The price point for this feature is also extremely appealing.  For example, AcademicPub tailored a marketing professor’s course materials into three options:  downloadable digital edition ($14.95), paperback edition ($27), or hardcover ($45).  Not only is this lighter on your wallet, but it also supports the “going green” initiative and caters to the digital trend for iPad, Kindle, and Nook lovers.  It also allows the professor to narrow the course’s focus to a very current course packet reflecting the intersection of business, economics and technology.  AcademicPub was launched this spring and offers over two million pieces of content from 75 publishers, such as prominent university presses and their related business publishing units.

Customized publishing by AcademicPub and Connexions (site where academics pool research and other education material online for free) are gaining momentum as more students and professors embrace this change in the mentality about publishing in the digital age.  Not every textbook needs to be a product of a renowned powerhouse textbook publisher.  There are less expensive alternatives, including these sites, where the student can learn more given the collage of current materials that truly explain the basic pillars of each course.

It’s nice to know that this option exists.  Perhaps in the future we won’t have to lug heavy books to class as more of our professors adopt this outlook and pursue the mosaic publishing route.

Lighter, cheaper textbooks?  I’m in!  What about you?


– A


One thought on “Textbooks? eBooks? Bespoke Books.

  1. I love this concept! In my undergrad days, professors would assign a text book (from which we would really only read 1/3 of the material) as well as a reader which contained various articles from several publications. It was wasteful, expensive, and a lot to carry around. If professors are able to move forward with digital “textbooks”, that would not only provide students with a lighter load (why not have all your course materials on your iPad), but it could also provide students with a better learning experience. With digital “textbooks”, it may be easier for professors to provide the most recent studies, relevant articles, etc so students will have up to date information about the subject, vs. a dated textbook or reader.

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