The DeHavilland Blog

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Disruption in the textbook market

For those familiar with Wikipedia and what it has done to the encyclopedia industry, you will either be thrilled or horrified to hear that they're now attempting to do the same thing in the textbook industry.

This article on CNet covers the basics: that Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, has been working on Wikibooks, which is billed at its site as a collection of open-book textbooks that anyone can edit. That the project is young - only 11,000+ book modules to date (as opposed to nearly 750,000 entries on Wikipedia) - but, like Wikipedia, has the potential to grow exponentially and change the nature of publishing in a new market.

Wikipedia decimated the encyclopedia industry; I once read a quote from Wales to the effect of, "we're turning the $10 billion encyclopedia industry into a $1 billion industry." The textbook market is close to a $3 billion market - wonder what will happen here?

Given the potential cost savings, this may be the killer app that finally allows technology to force changes in the traditional education model (as it has for most other industries). There will of course be concerns about the credibility of its content; however, as Steven Brewer, an assistant professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts states in the article:

Brewer also hopes Wikibooks opens up a new
kind of learning opportunity for students because it leverages the power of
digital information that is instantly modified and easily researched.

"There are a number of things people can
do...that don't require Wikibooks to be finished yet," Brewer said. "The big one
is to get students involved in producing materials (and) also vetting materials
(and) also adding elaboration to materials."

He envisions teachers--at any level--asking
students to examine existing Wikibooks entries for accuracy and relevancy and
then appending their findings to those entries. That would allow the project to
become a teaching tool and a work in progress all at once.

Textbooks are a mainstay of K-12 instruction; it will be fascinating to see what effect this project has on our education system, whether schools will forego the authority of textbooks and give students access to a participative form of learning, one that aligns with their orientation to the Internet and has the power to strengthen their critical thinking skills.


  • Distance learning students and those pursuing online degree programs seem to enjoy the best of everything. They get their education without actually needing to attend classes physically, and at the same time are able to keep their jobs and get a paycheck. In fact, this is one of the more prominent distance learning benefits that attract many students to make this their choice of education. In addition to that, distance learning students also gain the advantage of flexibility where they are able to study at their own pace without adhering to class schedules.However, even learning online is not perfect. It requires a lot of discipline to stay on task and keep personal priorities straight. As a learner, you must be intrinsically motivated to succeed. Without the in-class interaction between peers and the professor, it is more difficult to keep focused on the ultimate goal. click here for online degrees

    By Anonymous RITA, at 7:29 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home