Dixie Darr

In Learning Tools on June 15, 2009 at 11:19 am

The Textbook Racket and the Anti-Textbook Movement

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to dump textbooks and the $350 million annual expense in favor of online resources.

“Today,” he explains in his blog, “our kids get their information from the Internet, downloaded onto their iPods, and in Twitter feeds to their cell phones. A world of up-to-date information fits easily into their pockets and onto their computer screens. So why are California’s public school students still forced to lug around antiquated, heavy, expensive textbooks?”

Good question, but first, a quick disclaimer. Nobody loves books more than I do. My house is stuffed to the rafters with them, I visit my local library three-four times a week, and I read ten books a month. My problem is with textbooks.

Simply speaking, I think the textbook industry is a racket. The books are outrageously expensive and “updated” so frequently that used books are rarely an option. Even with regular revisions, they are frequently out-of-date by the time they are in print, and they are always static. I am also appalled by the giant backpacks students must lug around.

In an earlier post, I suggested that textbooks on Amazon’s Kindle made a lot of sense, if only for the portability.

Author and blogger Seth Godin called using textbooks “academic malpractice” and says he got more response to this post than any other post ever.

The governator concluded with the warning that “As the music and newspaper industries will attest, those who adapt quickly to changing consumer and business demands will thrive in our increasingly digital society and worldwide economy.”

The monopolistic textbook industry may have just priced itself out of existence. Maybe it’s time we start a movement.

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