It may still be a number of years away from common use, but some universities are experimenting with the implementation of open source textbooks as class materials. The advantage, of course, is that these would be much cheaper alternatives to the standard print texts, potentially saving students hundreds of dollars a year. I know for a couple of courses I took, this would have come in handy. I believe that for my English courses, I still would have acquired the official print texts for novels and poetic works, as well as Medieval Studies source, but any Math or Science texts in my first year or two would be fair game.
A stumbling block for this kind of open source resource is the requirement by many professors that students use the newest editions of texts, which makes it nearly impossible to acquire these through any means other than the conventional. Each new edition of a text also comes with additional reference materials that are important to educators and can provide extra benefits to students as well.
Then there’s always companies like Apple, who are planning to get involved in the text book and education markets.
Written by experts in their fields, open-source textbooks generally allow users to edit the texts or make “mash-ups” from several books.
Ernst is leading a new project at the University of Minnesota that will review open-source textbooks and collect the ones that pass muster in an online catalog. He said the project will concentrate first on the most widely taught courses, like introductory biology and math.
You’ve probably been there: you’re discussing e-readers with a friend or family member, who’s quite an avid reader. At some point in the conversation, one of you will mention the experience of holding a physical book, turning pages, or even the smell of the book (especially if it’s an old one) as reasons why printed books are better than e-books. I’m not opening up this bag of worms right now, since it’s not the focus of this post, there will be plenty of opportunities later.
Books smell and there are reasons for it, ranging from heat and moisture levels of the area in which they are stored, to the effects of the chemicals (acids) used in their production. AbeBooks has a short video discussing just this topic and though the first few seconds are just a little bit creepy, it is worth the watch.
Kudos to Strombo for posting this link over at that site.
Even though I’m a big reader and have always loved talking books with anyone who will engage me, I’ve never been one to lend books to friends. Maybe I’m just a little too possessive over them, making me something of a book nazi: a term a friend recently used to describe a person who cringes at dog-eared pages, bent covers, or even broken spines; one who gives guidelines for the reading of a borrowed book. I’d not heard the term before, but knew exactly what she was talking about the moment she said it.
Of all my possessions (which admittedly mean nothing in the overall scheme of things) I value a few above all others:
- my wedding ring
- poems I’ve written
- personalized Arsenal FC home jersey
- my books
Though I would never have time after saving my family, I would want to make sure these things are recovered should there be a destructive fire or other unfortunate event. As time goes by I’m finding that I would probably save a couple of books above even my instruments, particularly an old edition of Tennyson’s complete works. I would also place the 18th century complete Shakespeare by Alexander Pope that my wife has brilliantly preserved in my own list of books to save.
These things can all be replaced, but more than any other object, I find books carry with them moments heavy with memories. For instance, I remember where and when I read Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings for the first time and the adventure of my young life felt somehow amplified in its pages; how significant was reading Epictetus’ Discourses to a change in my personal worldview and taking responsibility for my own life; and perhaps, most importantly, my father’s selected editions of John Donne and Dylan Thomas, and his complete John Milton, which I keep safe now after his death (I’ve purchased other editions of these so as not to inadvertently damage those he once owned). Books contain information, text, story, and even great literature, but the personal and social connections we make with them are at least as important as their contents.
Maybe these connections make me just a little anxious when a friend asks to borrow book to read. I want nothing more than to share the joy and learning that I gained from each book, but it’s hard to let go, even for a brief period. It must be hard for some parents to trust others with their children and I image it to be somewhat similar with books. I won’t feel this way about every book I’ve read and there are many that I don’t even remember taking in my hands. Then there are those who are heavier than their pages allow.