The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Opinion-Internet textbooks gain steam

The mentality of consolidating data and throwing it up on the Internet is finally spreading to textbooks.

The Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges grouped together teachers from 81 of the state’s most enrolled courses, created a compendium of online textbooks for these courses and then slapped it up on the web. The online library is free and available to anyone. Students can find it at www.opencourselibrary.org.

The intention is for classes in Washington State colleges to adapt themselves to these textbooks so students won’t need to buy any supplementary material for their courses. Bellevue College went further, getting a $783,000 grant to buy computers, which they will upload this library onto and then rent out to students so they can have their textbook with them in class even if they can’t afford a laptop. The state has plans in place to move textbooks for K-12 classes to a similar format.

“It really is the beginning of the end for closed, expensive, proprietary commercial textbooks that are completely disconnected from today’s reality,” said Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, in an interview with The Seattle Times.

Generally, this is a good thing. With all sorts of information at students’ fingertips, textbooks seem more like an outdated moneysink as time goes by.

Also, Texas is currently such a large buyer of textbooks it is more efficient for companies to cater to its needs and leave the rest of the country out to dry. This became a celebrated problem in March 2010 when the Texas State Board of Education required history textbooks to question the separation of church and state and dilute the importance of Thomas Jefferson. The more K-12 textbooks go online, the lighter Texas’ grip is on other states’ education systems.

This plan looks like money in students’ pockets, but textbooks, no matter how expensive and cumbersome, cannot die completely.

Tactile learners need something in their hands. The Internet is a wonderful thing, but if students want a book, that option should remain available.

It’s also worth considering the number of jobs affected if the textbook industry went under. The lumber and printing industries are already dying in step with print, and delivery services stand to take a large hit as well. In an already tumultuous job environment, this side effect could be cause to step back.

Other concerns arise from Bellevue’s rental laptops if other colleges choose to do something similar. How often will laptops be upgraded, repaired or replaced? With technology moving so fast, they’ll become obsolete quickly.

TCC and all of Texas should look into online textbooks, but they should proceed with caution. Doing it wrong could result in upheaving a major U.S. industry and making things harder on many students.

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