Wednesday, May 25, 2011

An Electronic Textbook With Lifetime Updates for $49

I think it's a great idea, particularly for technical fields where the content is updated regularly.

Would You Like A $49 Electronic College Textbook With Lifetime Updates?

Nature, the folks who brought you the free life sciences learning community Scitable, are today announcing “Principles of Biology”, a college level electronic textbook. Building upon the cross-platform success of Scitable, the new textbook offers a variety of fully interactive features, including quizzes and assessments, an online gradebook for instructors, and more. Perhaps most notable in this era of nickel-and-dime upgrades and in-app purchases is that this text will be continually updated with top-notch content from Nature’s editing team at no additional cost to anyone who has purchased a copy. “Our interactive textbooks, since they are “born digital”, are designed to capitalize to the maximum degree on the progressive possibilities which digital media opens up for the education space: new distribution models, new learning models, new pricing models. Our textbooks are designed to make students active rather than passive learners throughout the learning process,” says Vikram Savkar, SVP & Publishing Director at Nature Publishing Group.

Many of my college texts costs substantially more than $50 used, and they were used for only a couple of classes. Since I graduated college, I haven’t cracked a single one of the (few) textbooks I kept. I brought this point up to Savkar, and his response was illuminating.

Isn’t that because you can’t easily search a textbook? It’s quite time consuming to dig through your old boxes, dust off a book from ten years ago, and flip through a few hundred pages to find the tidbit you were looking for (only to discover that it’s now out of date). What if searching your old textbooks were as easy as typing a term into Google? And if you had the confidence that someone behind the scenes was keeping them up to date and rigorously high quality? I think you’d find that you would refer to many of your textbooks over time. You’d hear a news story about genomics, for example, but no longer remember exactly what it is, do a quick search on your Nature platform, and within a half an hour be back up to speed.

Savkar went on to highlight medical students, graduate students, and similar people who need to refer back to their textbooks on an on-going basis for several years. “I believe we’re moving into an age when textbooks can be lifelong tools, rather than short-lived supplies for one college class,” Savkar said.

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