Seth on why the textbook industry deserves to die
Seth Godin doesn't just 'do' marketing but he teaches it regularly, too. His latest rant is on the insidious growth of the business of textbook writing and publishing, as a result, he believes, of laziness in the market and cynical money-grabbing by a select few from an ignorant system.
The argument is certainly not that books are inherently wrong in a schooling environment (Seth has sold his share of millions of books). Books such as those I read offer insights from leaders in their fields, normally insights which are relatively up-to-date (give or take 12 months) and which would be a nightmare to try and consume on a 500 pixel-wide blog posting.
But textbooks, written as they are, out-of-date, error-ridden by mistype or time passing, curations of general knowledge rather than journeys through learning with personal insights, almost always are the professor's/teacher's lazy option. Says Seth:
The solution seems simple to me. Professors should be spending their time devising pages or chapterettes or even entire chapters on topics that matter to them, then publishing them for free online. (it's part of their job, remember?) When you have a class to teach, assemble 100 of the best pieces, put them in a pdf or on a kindle or a website (or even in a looseleaf notebook) and there, you're done. You just saved your intro marketing class about $15,000. Every semester. Any professor of intro marketing who is assigning a basic old-school textbook is guilty of theft or laziness.
This industry deserves to die. It has extracted too much time and too much money and wasted too much potential. We can do better. A lot better.
Seth's assumption is the same as mine, and the underlying pretext of the eduBuzz platform: that teachers are paid to share their knowledge, not just with those students in front of them but with anyone in their learning communities, and sharing with this community will make us all better teachers and learners.
Arnie's got the right end of the wrong stick: it's not a question of changing the media through which the textbook is published, it's about changing the very notion of the textbook.
By far the easiest way to do this is to blog regularly, in bite-sized, timely learning chunks that can be read, commented upon, linked to and adapted by students, their parents and your peers. It is much harder for everyone to publish this in a textbook, ends up much more inaccurate and, above all, is less accessible due to cost than an internet connection in every home.
Sharing, and sharing online specifically, is not in addition to the work of being an educator. It is the work.