Sunday, June 29, 2014

Online textbooks are awful. It's time to kill the publishers.

My daughter and I are using “Holt” [1] Mathematics Course 3 for her summer math work. It’s quite a good printed textbook; a used 2007 edition cost about $10 on Amazon.

Her school doesn’t expect parents to buy the used textbook, however. They expect us to use the same material through Holt McDougal Online. Alas, unlike the printed text, the online textbook experience is miserable. Holt is serving up low to medium resolution bitmaps that are barely legible on screen or if printed. Our school district’s acceptance of this awful experience reinforces my fear of their iPad for all learning program. They are not ready for this.

It’s not just the schools that aren’t ready. The big publishers who control school textbooks have had decades to do computer based textbooks — and their products are still lousy.

We need alternatives to the traditional publishers. We need nations, states, provinces and startups to fund new textbooks that are digital from the start. This will kill Holt et al — but we have no choice. They can’t do this. They need to go away.

[1] Publisher names change constantly.

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