[BLUG] California approves OS textbooks
blacks at indiana.edu
Wed Aug 19 16:50:27 EDT 2009
On Wed, Aug 19, 2009 at 02:23:06PM -0400, Simón Ruiz wrote:
> 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.)
Yeah, I don't quite get the Kindle edition stuff. It is only marginally
less expensive than the paper version, and you can't share them with a
friend when you're done. Passing books on to friends is one thing, but
there are open book swaps in places, and you certainly can't swap Kindle
books with strangers.
> "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.
> You make a valid point. Still, when it comes to printing it out on
> paper, not interesting.
Oh, you are certainly correct. Printing things out in convienant packets
is an easy use of the technology that is not allowed with current paper
book licenses. It isn't really interesting in any sense, though it could
well be highly useful in the short-term.
> 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.
I think the attitude of freedom that comes with using free materials
will really start some things changing. That, in itself, may well be
> 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.
I don't have enough faith in our current system to expect that we'll go
primarily paperless within my lifetime.
We could have had videophones in the 1950's. We could have traveled to
Mars and back in the 1970's. (Shoot, I don't think a person has stepped
foot on the moon during my lifetime.) Back in the 1980's they said the
computer would allow us to have paperless offices, but instead it was so
easy to create new, better, longer forms that the amount of paperwork
a person does has only skyrocketed.
Not to mention it is possible that paper is beneficial to the
environment by way of carbon sequesteration. (Reduce CO2 by having more
carbon stored in books.) If we get science to back that as a viable
solution to global warming, we could well see a future government
initiative to create -- and store -- more paper-based products. If this
were to happen we could well see a great influx in the amount of paper
materials. This may sound like a crazy idea, but I fully expect much
more crazy ideas to be leapt at as we start to see more disasters caused
by global climate change.
> > 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?
Actually, what I like about it is while it would make it easy for a
school to use a book that literally doesn't mention evolution at all,
it would be equally possible for students to download and read other
science books. If a student (or family) is unhappy with the lack of
evolution, it becomes trivial to work around it.
Compare to the situation now, where if a district doesn't like evolution
they can either purchase books without it, or glue pages together and
the student or family has no way to work around it. (Particularly if
such books are also missing from their local library.)
> 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.
Heh. You speak like someone who does this with Youtube. I find Youtube
to be such a huge waste of time I never go there directly -- I wait for
someone else to provide a link to something. I let my friends waste
their time on Youtube, and only look at the gems.
> 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 have absolutely no problems with books being aligned to standards. It
makes sense to have a standard grade in which to teach things, as it
makes transitions between school districts much, much easier.
I just wish kids had more time to actually learn the material, instead
of needing to focus on learning the test.
> 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
I think just providing light to the fact that these materials exist and
are mature enough to be used wide-spread will do wonders.
With California as a state doing this, I fully expect smaller, poorer
areas to start using some of the same books and handing the material
out as packets. Then you could well start seeing it happen in middle
class suburbs where they decide they can keep their athletics programs
by cutting textbook costs. Once it reaches that stage there will be no
stopping it. Wealthy areas will not want to hear that poorer kids have
good, modern books while carrying light-weight backpacks to school.
It'll could literally be a race between districts that are adopting it
to be hip-and-modern and districts adopting it to trim the fat and save
I fully expect it to spread life wildfire. It is just, I also expect
a great portion of those students to primarily consume the materials
> 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.
In a way what we're seeing is sort of the return to the values of the
gentleman scientist of years gone past. They shared knowledge, as the
sharing helps everyone. They wrote books, certainly, but they were
rarely primarily dependant upon the book sales to make ends meet.
When people can contribute timely material to their peers without
concerning themselves with how to squeeze the most money out of the
material, then everyone benefits.
> 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
> education experience.
> Like, for example, teachers.
One of my problems with education was that I regularly undervalued the
part played by teachers. Part of that was that my preferred learning
style is listening to lectures and reading. As a child I absolutely
hated all hands-on activities. It was a massive waste of time.
Couple that with the fact that people consider "good" teachers to
frequently be the ones doing a lot of hands-on activities, and, well...
My idea of a good teacher was one that didn't actively get in the way
of my educating myself. -- I had a couple really bad teachers, but with
the exception of an art teacher that really stood out... teachers, in
general, never really seemed key in my education.
Things get interesting, though, when a kid who loves a particular
subject can study up on the material during the summer. To my mind, it
opens up the possibility of children skipping or testing out of some
classes due to being self-taught... using the same materials used in the
class-room. This would have been a delightful idea to me as I both loved
to learn new things and hated to do what I considered busy-work.
Steven Black <blacks at indiana.edu> / KeyID: 8596FA8E
Fingerprint: 108C 089C EFA4 832C BF07 78C2 DE71 5433 8596 FA8E
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