The advantages and disanvetages of digital textbook

Education has embraced the electronic age and has successfully integrated technology with academics. First came the dynamic concept of bringing education to the virtual classroom in the form of distance learning programs, and now digital textbooks have begun to enter both traditional classrooms and the online environment as well. E-books are increasingly becoming a standard in higher education.
Let's take a look at some of the other pros and cons associated with using digital textbooks:
*Compact. E-books are efficient because you aren't bogged down with heavy backpacks and limited shelf space. All you need to do is download your e-book to your hard drive and you're good to go.
*Lower in cost. Since the overhead expenses in producing traditional textbooks are eliminated, e-textbooks are typically cheaper to buy. I recently took a course where the hardcover text was $175 and the e-textbook was $80; a significant savings, especially if you are a struggling student trying to make ends meet.
*On-demand learning. Purchasing your e-textbook couldn't be easier because it's a simple download and you have instant access to your reading assignments. There is no standing on line at the bookstore or waiting days (sometimes weeks!) for your book to arrive in the mail. Society has increasingly moved to an on-demand platform, and education is no exception. Many students relish in the fact they can instantly receive their textbook, saving both time and money.
*Easy to customize. The digital format makes it easy to highlight and bookmark pages without altering or defacing the book like you would with a traditional text. Once you are finished, it's easy to remove your highlights and other digital markings you may have made throughout the semester.
*Search features. The rapid speed of computer search features makes it convenient to quickly find a passage or phrase you need to find. All you need to do is plug in a few keywords and you can instantly retrieve the information you need.

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Disadvantages of a textbook

One of the disadvantages of a textbook is that it has very narrow assumptions about the people using it.Here are the features I think the "textbook" of the future should have.
  • The textbook should be 100% searchable. No more wondering where eukaryotic appears in the text. You'll just be able to quickly type in a search term and find all of the places it appears.
  • Key words in the text should be linked to explanations of these key terms. Click on the word, find out what it means in this context and what other resources exist to understand it.
  • The readability of the text should be individually customizable. Want to challenge yourself and improve your vocabulary? There's a setting for that. Feel like taking it easy on the reading? There's a setting for that too.
  • Everything in the textbook should allow annotations which should appear as a user generated summary of the textbook itself in another location.
  • Users should be able to add bookmarks and tag parts of the textbook with terms so they can self-classify the information. These tags should optionally appear for other users of the same textbook.
  • You should be able to comment on any part of the textbook. This could be used to flag out-of-date content or just to ask questions. Each user of a textbook should optionally be able to see everyone else's comments on various sections of the text. These comments should happen in real time so that users can chat in real time about what they are examining.
  • Videos and other multimedia should be included in the textbook where appropriate. Want to talk about MLK's I have a dream speech? You can include the entire video of his speech as part of the book.
  • The textbook should be customizable. Users should be able to edit the content of the textbook and share the updated version of the textbook with other users. When a customization occurs, the original author(s) of the textbook could optionally be notified so they can either accept or reject the changes to the original work.
  • The textbook needs to be open source and free. No longer bound by restrictive and antiquated licenses, institutions can create their textbooks and share them with the world.
  • Textbooks need to be translatable if they are really going to be free to use for everyone. No longer would the language learners in your class be forced to struggle in your subject just because of a lack of knowledge of the language of instruction. Optionally you could have the textbook display in the language of instruction and have real-time translation services available for any section on demand.
  • For any section of the text, real time search of other resources or references needs to be available. Instead of relying on just the opinion of the author(s) of the text, now you can look at other (optionally screened) resources that could help understand some perspective on the subject of the textbook.
  • The textbook should be device agnostic and mobile-ready. It shouldn't matter if the person is reading it on an ereader, a netbook, an iPad, or a cell phone, the textbook should be available anytime, anywhere to anyone.
  • The textbook should be built with multiple models of pedagogy in mind. Instead of flatly stating the "facts" for the student reading the textbook, there should be opportunities for experimentssimulations3rd virtual worlds, or whatever other alternate forms of representation are available. Inquiry should be built into these textbooks.
  • Students should be able to click anywhere in the book and ask the question, "where is this used in the real world?" No more students asking why they are learning this stuff, because the entire learning process would be transparent.
  • You should be able to ask an expert on the topic from your textbook. Need more help with the topic than the textbook is providing, or have some more questions? You can call someone for help and ask for advice right through your textbook.
  • Your textbook could be a centre of a community of people who are all learning the same material. Not all of you need to be in exactly the same class, but as you work through the textbook and make comments, the textbook learns from you about your learning habits, strengths, and weaknesses, and connects you to the people and resources that you need to understand.
  • Any practice or other tasks that need to be done through the textbook should be included, if appropriate, and immediately assessed. No more waiting for feedback.

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