Notes in the Margin

On the intersection of web apps, digital content and social media

Tweaking Books in Almost Real-Time

First today was the news that Macmillan’s newly announced DynamicBooks will allow professors to rewrite e-textbooks.

While many publishers have offered customized print textbooks for years — allowing instructors to reorder chapters or insert third-party content from other publications or their own writing — DynamicBooks gives instructors the power to alter individual sentences and paragraphs without consulting the original authors or publisher.

While this sounds like a lot of work for professors, and it will be interesting to see how willing they are to engage in this approach, this article points out several other interesting aspects of textbooks going online.

For example, the proce of these e-textbooks will be considerably lower – in the example cited, the online version was about 36% the price of the printed version ($48.76 instead of $134.29). The primary reason for this, beyond the lower production costs, is that “students usually resell [the physical books] in the used market for several years before a new edition is released… DynamicBooks… will be “semester and classroom specific,” and the lower price… should attract students who might otherwise look for used or even pirated editions.”

Another key point – perhaps the more important one – is that the ebook versions will allow authors to more easily incorporate suggestions received from readers, making the book more responsive and relevant.

In a related article on E-Reads , E-Books Perfect for Instant Repair of Screwups, this need editorial need was underscored. The example cited was of Charles Pellegrino, author of The Last Train From Hiroshima, who had been “duped” by one of his sources into including erroneous material. Fixing this in hard copy would take years, and there would still be all those older editions out there with the wrong content. An eBook version however, could address the problem immediately and even include an apology.

This is all a little reminiscent of Pablo Picasso, who was allegedly banished from a museum exhibition of hos art, because he tried to tweak one of the works. On the other hand, in the case of eBooks, I think relevance and accuracy far outweighs other concerns.

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Written by tstaley

February 22, 2010 at 6:54 am

Posted in eBooks

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