Nature 458, 549-550 (2 April 2009) | doi:10.1038/458549b; Published online 1 April 2009
The e-textbook is only one part of a bigger revolution in online learning.
For generations, students have flipped through their textbooks to amplify or clarify what they have heard in their lectures, [snip].
Students will always need this kind of help; it is central to the learning process. But they might not be getting it from a printed textbook for much longer. The boundaries of the textbook have been stretching for some time now. [snip] Now those boundaries are threatening to burst entirely, as publishers experiment with making their textbooks available on personal computers, e-readers such as the Amazon Kindle and handheld devices ... [snip].
Yet at the same time, new technology is not limited to delivering the same type of content in new formats. E-textbooks are part of a much larger technological shift in the nature of teaching and learning. As is typical on the Internet, it is users who are driving some of the most popular innovations. [snip]. There is a ferment of creativity and innovation in education that deserves to be encouraged.
At the simplest level is the worldwide trend for both teachers and institutions to provide online access to course notes — often free of charge. Beyond that are collaborations between teachers to produce altogether new types of learning resource. [snip]
And at a third level are virtual classrooms, in which teachers speak to global audiences through online classes and seminars, or via do-it-yourself online courses such as those offered by the US National Science Teachers Association in Arlington, Virginia. Indeed, more and more colleges and universities are taking courses almost completely online through 'virtual learning environments' such as the commercial Blackboard system, headquartered in Washington DC, or the open-source Dokeos platform from Europe. [snip].
The result is a ferment of creativity and innovation in education that deserves to be encouraged. [snip]
Textbook publishers would also do well to support such efforts, rather than ignoring or even resisting them, [snip]. Textbooks were kings in a world where few other learning resources existed. University students, college libraries and school science departments had no option but to buy them. Now they have much more choice.
The Future of Textbooks