Using living textbooks for living students sounds like a no-brainer to me. Living students are changing all the time, as are the times in which we live. Therefore, living textbooks will naturally do a better job serving higher education.
Catching that vision, Apple in January announced its iBook 2 textbook platform for the iPad. Major publishers such as McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, are collaborating with Apple to write content.
Nature Publishing Group definitely agrees with the trend. In February, it issued a new interactive, multimedia college biology textbook, Principles of Biology. The digital textbook will cost less and weigh less than the corresponding hardcopy book. By virtue of being electronic, the student will be able to interact with videos, knowledge exercises, simulations, and recent journal articles. The online textbook is compatible with desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones.
Studies are already in progress at some of the California State University campuses to track student performance. These involve side-by-side comparisons between control groups using traditional hardcopy textbooks and groups using new electronic textbooks. The results should be interesting.
The challenges and opportunities of higher education are many. It behooves every academic institution to give its students the very best return on their investment. Living textbooks are one important resource that will help them to do exactly that.
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