An article published in the New York Times, “Moving into a digital future, where textbooks are history,” discussed the changes taking place in education, specifically the move from written textbook to e-books. A flood of letters/responses are presented in the Times of August 16, 2009, many lamenting the rise of the e-book. Almost all, in my opinion, miss the point.
E-books will, without a doubt, replace the traditional printed textbook, largely because it is a more efficient medium for communicating information. Just consider what a change this will make in the teaching of communication. Just for starters: Videos of speeches can be inserted in strategic places in the public speaking e-book, interactive communication models can be presented in human communication, and a variety of dialogues—from film, television, and real life—can be integrated into the discussions of interpersonal communication concepts and principles. Generally, it seems that the more channels of communication that are used to present information, the greater the chances of communicating effectively. The traditional printed text presents information through one channel; the e-book from several. And that alone makes the e-book superior. After all, not all students learn in the same way; some will learn more about effective speech delivery from watching a video of a well-presented speech while others might learn more from reading a series of dos and don’ts. We need to provide students with learning options and the e-book provides a lot more options than does the traditional printed text.
The textbook writer will still be needed (I’m happy to say) but will have to adjust to a digital world and will have to present material in a way that capitalizes on the enormous capabilities of computer mediated communication. Actually, this is one of the things that makes textbook writing the interesting and creative experience that it is.