Digital Textbooks Ahoy!!

A piece in the LA Times takes a look at the US textbook market and highlights R. Preston McAfee, a Caltech economics professor who is happy giving away his textbook for free (in pdf or in ‘source code’ as a word file):

McAfee is a leader in his academic field, a featured speaker at the Yahoo Big Thinkers India conference in March. Tall and genial, he dresses in khakis, a polo shirt and geeky river sandals. A coauthor of the best-selling book “Freakonomics,” Steven D. Levitt, has described him as brilliant. What McAfee is not is anti-capitalist.

“I’m a right-wing economist, so they can’t call me a communist,” McAfee said.

There’s some pretty US-centric stuff in the piece but the tensions it identifies are real. Worth a read.There are, of course, many aspects that need dissecting. The digital stuff (of course), the cost and what you might call the embedded textbook culture that seems pretty resistant to wholesale change. I know that here at Macquarie, the library has increased its ebook collection enormously in just a couple of years (from 0 -100,000 odd) and I’m seeing more and more laptop toting students who are happy to read on screen. So maybe change is in the air.

 (via Techdirt)


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