Chronicle Articles on Textbooks, E-Books, and More

My friend and colleague Robert Talbert recently pointed me to a big collection of articles over at the Chronicle that are focused on the many issues surrounding textbooks on college campuses.  Lots of worthwhile reading there.

One article asks about the feasibility of any textbook remaining truly free, noting that perhaps state governments could play a positive supporting role, as appears to be happening in California.  Another interviews a collection of students and shows a lot of insight regarding how students view “required” textbooks.  Money quotes:

“In The Chronicle’s focus groups, students praised e-books for their instant availability, searchability, and portability. They also described taking advantage of freely available online lectures and materials.

“But others struggle with electronic learning materials. They report getting more easily distracted, or feeling frustrated at not being able to underline the text. Using an online book for one class, Eduardo C. Albano, 18, found he had to spend twice as much time to read it.”

Many good points to ponder in these articles and more.  I’ll make one point: if you use Active Calculus, you can download the .pdf for free.  And with any .pdf editing software (Preview for Mac, Adobe Professional, or iAnnotate for the iPad), you can mark up your copy all you like.


  1. suevanhattum · · Reply

    Or you can print it for under $20.

    I think students are well satisfied with inexpensive (as well as free). For my Discrete Math class, I’m using Discrete Mathematics with Ducks. Our college bookstore is selling it to them for about $40!

    I’d like to find out if community colleges always have a required text that’s agreed upon by the whole department. It does make sense for calculus, so students can buy one textbook for Calc I, II, and III. But it inhibits the use of alternative texts. (My department has just agreed on the new calculus textbook they want to use. It’s conventional, and probably just as expensive as the last one.)

  2. Scottsdale Community College is moving toward having as many as possible free/open books for their students. One of the profs in the math department sent me their list, which can be found at

  3. suevanhattum · · Reply

    Nice! I wonder how big they are.

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