The death of the textbook?
Posted by knockels on 16 June, 2009
I first heard about Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposal to replace textbooks with online materials while driving to work the other day. Since then, it has attracted my attention in a number of places.
The report I heard first was on the Radio 4 Today programme and suggested that he wanted to replace textbooks with websites and laptops. This might, it was suggested, be as expensive as the textbooks. But then another report I read (and I can’t remember where, sorry!) suggested that he wanted to replace textbooks with ebook readers. And then it turned up on Have I Got News for You?, the BBC satirical news quiz. There it was dismissed by one participant as a bad idea, in a tone that suggested that there could be no other reaction.
I think the most important thing, whether it is websites or ebooks, is the thing suggested by John Dunford, the head of the Association of School and College Leaders, who appeared (metaphorically) on the Today programme – the main issue with this replacement of books with electronic content is the issue of quality. How will students know that the material they are reading is of good quality? Of course, this is an issue with books too, and exactly the same issue is present in the same way if ebooks are used instead of print. But if it is really websites, the issue has a new dimension.
Finally, on the HIFA2015 discussion list (HIFA2015 is campaigning for access to health information for all by the year 2015), several contributors have extended Governor Schwarzenegger’s suggestion to a developing world context and pointed out that access to electronic information is much more difficult there, so replacing books with anything electronic just does not work, for most people, yet.