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Online, Collaborative Textbooks Break the Mold

Regardless of subject matter, the "perfect" textbook probably d'es not exist. Perhaps the statistics in the current edition are already out of date, or the coverage d'esn't match the course syllabus. Such are the limitations of the printed book.

The advent of digital media has changed all that. Publishers are pairing printed books with Web sites that provide updates and opportunities to customize content. Many texts are now available digitally and can even be purchased piecemeal. On campus, teachers are developing online materials to replace or enhance printed content. And now a new venture into open source publishing may broaden the availability of course content dramatically. OpenMind Publishing Group provides public domain textbooks in key academic disciplines, currently encompassing 17 areas. Professors can adopt these texts and publish their own content through the company as well as contribute ideas and new content to existing materials.

Adam Stone, professor of political science at Georgia Perimeter College in Atlanta, turned to OpenMind for a textbook solution for his Introduction to Political Science course. In six years of teaching, he still had not found the right text for the course. "Part of the problem was that the textbooks didn't have the broad coverage I needed," he says. "But the other problem was that all of the texts would be out of date too quickly." Stone, who likes to tie course content to current events, wanted a textbook that would be updated regularly. He signed up to participate in the beta testing of an OpenMind project by Martin Slann, Introduction to Politics: Governments and Nations in the New Millenium. Having used Slann's textbook when it was published by McGraw Hill, Stone knew he liked the book. Because the material is stored digitally, the author himself can regularly update the text with election results and international government changes.

Working with OpenMind, Stone was able to insert his own course materials into the text, edit sections of the book, and change the order of topics at will. OpenMind also published open source study guides, audio and video aids, and test and quiz-building software.

Stone was impressed with the quality of the printed book his students received, as well as the price, which was less than the price of a used textbook. In future semesters, a card purchased at the campus bookstore will entitle students to a copy of the book in CD, online, or print version.

For more information, contact Adam Stone at [email protected].

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