Brian Jacobs, founder and president of the virtual bookstore and marketplace Akademos, was anxious to review the results from an e-textbook pilot done last spring at five universities, but not surprised when they proved to be less than positive. The results simply highlighted improvements to digital course materials that are necessary going forward.
According to Jacobs, the primary development must come in interactivity. It’s not enough to digitally highlight content; the material needs to offer more than its print counterpart and faculty must be willing to take the lead in producing the annotations.
“A successful digital initiative will be one in which the faculty is strongly committed to actively participating in working with course materials—when the course materials act not as passive appendages to classroom teaching but rather as direct extensions of that teaching itself; when they are less interchangeable commodities and more directly reflective of the learning environment itself (the institution or the classroom),” Jacobs wrote in this blog post.
Jacobs said he also believes limiting access through digital rights management must change and that lower pricing of digital content is not enough in itself. Lower cost is important, but the device used must also provide a satisfactory experience for users.
“What this e-textbook study and others like it tell us is that the technology of the textbook—with its physical interactivity, rich graphics, and tactile experience—raises the digital transition threshold for study materials well beyond what it is for general reading books,” Jacobs continued. “And that’s probably a good thing, for when the transition comes (and it will), it should be one that fundamentally changes not only course materials but the very relations of teacher, student, and text.”