Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What is a Textbook?

[ reposted from math-teach @ Math Forum ]

I think what's probably obvious to all of us is that the word "textbook" is becoming decoupled from the medium, or was never that coupled in the first place. A textbook has a specific format and purpose. In a math teaching context, a textbook usually comes with exercises, perhaps a teacher's edition and so on (many criteria pertain).

Is it a PDF? In wood pulp? On a Kindle? An XO-3?

We don't know, just from the word "textbook".

In the case of books through Google, the author may have already chosen a public license, so free copying is not an issue.

Good example.

When I teach a "Pythonic math" course (math using Python), I'm free to point students to free textbooks on the web, other writings, and not dictate whether they order printed copy or not.

Some may have valid and necessary requirements for hardcopy. I have that myself, in part because some people don't believe a book exists until it weighs something. Sometimes you just want that airplane seat copy, with no need to haul out a fat laptop.