[BLUG] California approves OS textbooks
simon.a.ruiz at gmail.com
Wed Aug 19 14:23:06 EDT 2009
On Wed, Aug 19, 2009 at 10:09 AM, Steven Black<blacks at indiana.edu> wrote:
> It reminds me of Star Trek, where paper books were all antiques, though
> antiques that some people preferred to reading the same material
> electronically. Paper books won't disappear, regardless of how small a
> population actually favors them.
I'm no Luddite, and I definitely prefer a good paper book to reading
the same thing on a screen.
Using a Kindle has opened me to the possibility of eBook readers being
sufficiently comfortable for sustained reading of the vast amount of
free/public domain content out there, which is simple enough to take
advantage of. (Still not comfy enough with the business model to spend
money on Kindle books, so I'm effectively cut off from any non-free
literature; I don't see it being any better than the Apple Music Store
and, in fact, it seems even a bit less free than even *Apple* has
moved to by now.)
However, I can't imagine my house without books. My back can't imagine
moving without hauling boxes upon boxes of wood pulp, glue, and ink
from place to place.
> There's another side of it, too. When eBooks are acceptable for
> textbooks, it is easy to leverage the same infrastructure for some of
> the literature assignments, too. How many of the great English classics
> that are regularly and routinely assigned year after year are actually
> available via Project Gutenberg? How many middle school book reports
> could be taken care of via a Project Gutenberg book?
> Shoot, I only read any Edgar Rice Burrows once I was I was in high school
> -- I'd heard about him in Robert A. Heinlein's novel _The Number of
> the Beast_. All the Edgar Rice Burrows books are available via Project
> Gutenberg. (This, of course, means that I could've been reading these in
> class instead of my textbook and folks would have been none the wiser.
> As it was folks sometimes noticed was reading a work of fiction.)
That was the first correlation that hit me when playing with the
Kindle. The vast amounts of public domain classics.
There are also the Cory Doctorows of the world that provided me some
good Kindle fodder. (The Kindle obeys most basic HTML format tags
inside plain text files—they just have to be named something.txt in
the right folder—so the HTML version is particularly nice for the
The cell modem helps bring it to another level, best illustrated with
this short story:
My wife and I are flying down I-69 listening to Andrew Lloyd Weber's
/Phantom of the Opera/ musical.
We're having a lively discussion about some of the plot elements that
aren't fully explained in the musical, but that are thoroughly
explored in Gaston Leroux's novel. I was able to fill in a lot of the
Phantom's back story for her and she wondered how I knew all of it.
Well, I'd read the novel through probably twice in high school, and
had written a book report on it.
She said "Hmm, I really should read that...".
"You can, the Kindle's in the back seat." Pick it up, open up a free
public domain content download guide, search it for "Phantom of the
Opera", find the link, click on it, wait a dozen or so seconds for the
download and, *BAM*. Even while driving down the highway, you've just
kicked it up a notch.
> This has regularly been an issue. Back when I was in Jr. Highschool there
> was cause of concern as they were worried that the heavy backpacks, when
> not worn properly, were contributing to long-term back problems in some
I carried too many heavy books, and I now have long-term back problems.
Coincidence? Maybe not...
I *did* get rear-ended at a stop-light 5 years ago, though. ;-)
>> Printing out F/OS textbooks is, to me, one of the least interesting
>> possibilities for them.
> Printing out *entire* textbooks is totally the least interesting.
> Allowing an instructor to take a textbook and split it in to
> easy-to-handle packets, however, is something that could well allow
> F/OS teaching material to seep in to earlier grades. (And this could be
> anything from "my class is really advanced for their grade, we're using
> the whole book in easy to swallow packets", to "my class got ahead of
> their current book, we're going to use material from this book for the
> last month of the school year."
You make a valid point. Still, when it comes to printing it out on
paper, not interesting.
It's the fact that the teacher can remix and match and personalize the
texts to their individual classes that's interesting to me, there.
While printing that resulting product to paper may be the primary way
most kids will interact with the material for years, I'm looking
forward to a primarily paperless school.
> In a semi-related note, the use of electronic distribution also allows
> the perversion of science in an easy-to-maintain manner. "We use an
> electronic science book. Here's the URL." And, well, *that* science book
> is totally missing the chapter on evolution.
Do you suppose this would become disproportionately easier with free
ebooks than it is today? There are textbooks that do that already, no?
What it would do is open up the textbook publishing industry the way
YouTube has opened up the video publishing industry.
I think that means that yes, there will be a lot of crap, *but* there
will also be enough diamonds to make sifting through it worthwhile.
>> What I think is going to be the exciting thing to watch is the things
>> a large, creative teacher population could do with the four freedoms
>> applied to the material they're working from and with.
> Yeah, it could well be interesting.
> I just wish they would cut out most of the standardized testing. It has
> a negative impact on the amount that kids learn.
However, until we as a country snap out of our bubble-filling fetish,
the only textbooks heavily used will be the ones aligned with the
So, if we want free e-textbooks in this country right now, aligning
them with standards is a pre-req.
> I've more immediate concerns. I've a baby, and I want her to have access
> to decent cost-effective educational materials regardless of the school
> she happens to be in.
Yeah, I believe the materials can be there by the time she's in school.
If US public schools started diverting some of that huge stream of
money they feed the textbook industry, it could happen much, much
Like the MPAA and the RIAA, the textbook publishing market is just
another example of a bunch of Industrial Age companies desperately
trying to wrap Copyright and Education law around themselves to keep
them artificially profitable in an Information Age world. There may be
a place in the future for those companies, assuming they stop trying
to hold the world back and start finding ways of making money by
providing value rather than by fencing it off and selling tickets.
> Not to mention, if her peers are better educated it will make a better
> world for her to live in. Educated fools are no less foolish, and there
> will always be some fools. However, better education for all means that
> folks at least have a choice in the matter.
If we can make sure everyone has free access to good, solid,
comprehensive educational materials, it should free up more resources
to be used on some more critical and less comoditized parts of the
Like, for example, teachers.
> Steven Black <blacks at indiana.edu> / KeyID: 8596FA8E
> Fingerprint: 108C 089C EFA4 832C BF07 78C2 DE71 5433 8596 FA8E
> -----BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE-----
> Version: GnuPG v1.4.6 (GNU/Linux)
> -----END PGP SIGNATURE-----
More information about the BLUG