Part I - Pilot Project

6 – e-Textbook Futures

Wordpress Pressbooks application is a hybrid presentation between websites and books, using a blog engine (or content management system) for multiple file format output. Pressbooks is not a completely flexible system, as it has been found to be incompatible with other very useful plugins[1]. Since the application is open source, there is the freedom to modify and improve the code.

Development of Pressbook e-books content is digitally dynamic. Therefore content is less about static fire and forget, and more about growing a book site. Each open source e-textbook has the potential to be continuously updated, evolve, and merge into another e-textbook or website. Hence, traditional hard-copy authors may find open e-textbooks more demanding (or frustrating) in a dynamic publishing environment. However, authors who are adept bloggers may be more comfortable in such an environment where:

  • Digital books can be more blog like in fluid design and content (i.e., longer webpages, responsive to device display)
  • Content changed synchronously (update directly as workflow is from author to content, rather than staged bureaucracy)
  • Incorporate interactive multimedia and social networking, including commenting and annotation (add engagement plugins)
  • Accessible anywhere, anytime via the Internet or stand-alone WiFi hotspot.

In the author’s experiences, public education has been more about a socialist ideal, often dictated by the ‘business of education’.  Despite the hope of life-long learning for all, education has a monetary cost. The burden of textbook costs combined with tuition is a barrier to financially challenged learners. Open e-textbooks are a digital disrupter in spreading information and knowledge to anyone who has access to a computing device.  Ironically, hard-copy may continue to be necessary, as printing of open e-textbooks can be an advantage to learners who do not have access to the Internet or computing devices.

Beyond the consumer barriers, there are the production challenges such as inspiring open source e-publishing versus commercial ventures.  Canadian educators and learners need to engage in a paradigm shift enveloping social conscience, financial support mechanisms, community and collaborative initiatives to expand the publishing and adoption of open e-textbooks as important open educational resources, and valued learning experience.

Future research on open e-textbooks may include:

  • adoption rates
  • OER philosophies and politics for stakeholders
  • open e-textbook policy
  • authoring perceptions
  • learner perceptions
  • repositories initiatives
  • portable Pressbook e-publishing system
  • comparison of learning from hardcopy versus electronic copy
  • technology considerations to support e-publishing
  • developing stewardship and value in OER’s and open e-textbooks
  • open and transparent total cost accounting of open source e-publishing to promote student cost savings in textbook purchases

While iBooks format and commercial services offer proprietary solutions to readers, open source solutions liberate the producers and consumers from being locked into specific hardware or software. Alternative open source application such as Drupal Thunder [2] and Docuwiki [3] offer a different development and production experience, but with the same consumer PDF and EPUB outputs. Therefore, WordPress Pressbooks is one of many open source applications able to promote sharing, equality, and freedom of knowledge.


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