September 28, 2005 4:00 AM PDT

Wikibooks takes on textbook industry

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existing textbooks never will.

"I like the idea of using it as a tool for kids to check and then post their own alterations," Hibbard said. "It might be a really good way to give kids a couple of lessons, not only about the particular content, but also about what's the nature of public information."

Brewer also buys Wales' argument that the Wikibooks model could eventually move publishing companies away from existing business models that depend on students buying expensive books containing more information than they will use in any given course and which take several years to produce.

"The idea of just going to a book that is always going to be a year or two out of date is...silly," Brewer said. "There are going to be faster ways of getting the newest ideas."

Representatives at two leading publishing houses did not respond to requests for comment.

Hibbard said he thinks textbook publishers will have little choice but to adapt as efforts like Wikibooks gain traction.

"They'd have to do something," Hibbard said. "They'd have to respond to the up-to-date (nature) of the Wikibooks version."

Certainly, Wikibooks has several shortcomings. One is its open nature, in which any registered user can edit existing entries. That means that any entry can be defaced or, more benignly, modified by someone who doesn't know what they're talking about.

Wales also acknowledges that some kinds of learning require multimedia beyond your basic wiki software tools.

"I'm learning German," Wales said. "You couldn't learn German just from a textbook...So I'm learning from audio CDs and games."

But he added that, over time, Wikibooks could be extended to include audio books.

In any case, while Wikibooks is small today, Wales argues it could one day be a relevant alternative to the traditional textbook model.

"It's growing exponentially," he said. "The bigger it gets and the more people stumble across it, the more people are interested in volunteering. So it grows in that way."

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12 comments

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How would this work?
What happens when somone puts out a text on the origin of Man? Seems like you'd have constant alterations by various religious fundamentalists and Darwinian proponents each "correcting" the mistakes of the others, with occasional insertions by feminists demanding that the topic should be the origin of Persons...
Posted by Jimmu411 (51 comments )
Reply Link Flag
same as wikipedia
backups of every change, admins have the right to revert changes, voting in place for best version, etc.
Posted by Karios Kasra (62 comments )
Link Flag
"Evoultion" is in the Wikipedia and seems to last (and evolve...)
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution" target="_newWindow">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution</a>
Posted by hadaso (468 comments )
Link Flag
strategy
I think that the strategy for textbook companies is pretty straight-
forward. Instead of hiring authors to write textbooks, hire them to
supply information to a wikitextbook. Restrict editing to these
people. Then sell access to the wikitextbook to students. It's not a
true wiki, but close enough if you have enough editors.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
This is fine for textbooks, but ...
my wife has grown weary of the constant, download this 40 page except from a book, etc. etc. that she sees at her school. It's like, we pay HOW MUCH? and you aren't willing to print them yourselves and hand them out to us?

Also, what happens if a student does not have broadband or their broadband goes down?
Posted by nasser0000 (64 comments )
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Reader Requirements
My new PDA has VGA resolution of around 160dpi. The ultimate target for standard reading resolution is around 200dpi. A reading device at that resolution surpases printed reading (particularly with backlighting, search, audio, annotations and so forth). Prototype devices already a few years old easily held around 350 novels. Couple that with continuous or even sporadic broadband/network access, and you have the other end of the story. Imagine a device that completely surpassed what you get with a bookcase, which you could carry with you anywhere, mark up, cross link, and occasionally update when possible. The wait is killing me...
Posted by hollasch (10 comments )
Link Flag
Or what if I want to read elsewhere?
Or what if I want to cram for finals the way I did when I was in college, buried into my hammock between two trees on the other side of campus from my dorm, to minimize distractions? Not the best place to have to read all my "textbooks" off a computer.
Posted by (12 comments )
Link Flag
How about a USB Flash Drive
That way you can download what you want onto the flash drive and the kid can take it to school.
Some schools are insisting on this already.
Posted by tantrik (2 comments )
Link Flag
Suspect Revisionist History
I've found that many of the search results contain revisionist
history with a noticeable left tilt.

I consider this a suspect product at best. No surprise considering
its open source with little editorial oversight.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://espellahumanzee.blogspot.com/" target="_newWindow">http://espellahumanzee.blogspot.com/</a>
Posted by cjohn17 (268 comments )
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I am very enthusiastic about the concept of wikibooks as yet another tool for expanding open source teaching, learning and research. I have serious concerns about the lack of in-line citations even in featured wiki books (2010-09). A necessary step in establishing legitimacy in knowledge claims is the ability to verify sources. At this stage wiki articles which are constantly updated, provide more in-line citations, references and footnotes. Most textbooks are already out-of-date by the time they are published as the latest research provides new data that unsettles previously held knowledge claims. Peer-reviewed academic journal articles become "dated" rapidly providing interesting histories of science but not necessarily the most current, objective and accurate representation of reality. Wikibooks could allow for the most current research to be at least introduced if not included as an integral part of a chapter. I also share concerns put forward by Garfinkel (2008) in <a href="http://snurl.com/14nn49"></a> MIT's Technology Review. Garfinkel claimed that ?wikitruth? is true enough for most readers including journalists who use ?wikiclaims? as background material. Garfinkel distinguishes between the epistemological standards used in mathematics and science where legitimization of objective truth-claims are based on laws and observability in contrast to Wikipedia epistemology where ?wikitruth?-claims are included as long as they are ?verifiable.? ?The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth.? He raises a number of key issues about the dangers of a consensus view of knowledge-claims-about-a-thing. But these are fundamentally the same issues that anyone seriously wanting greater clarity on any topic would consider.Wikipedia articles on any subject come up first in search engines and are not surprisingly already a primary resource for many Canadian primary, junior and high school students doing ?research? for written assignments, in-class presentations (often as PowerPoint presentations. Wiki environments require learning a new way to read with much more attention paid to critically examining and evaluating sources. What role do educators play in developing critical thinking in the wiki environment? Will we PowerPoint our way to the simplest descriptions of complex issues allowing the market and/or interest groups to sway our decisions in an effortless manner simply because we only had time for a wiki-analysis? <a href="http://snurl.com/14nl98">more</a> Maureen Flynn-Burhoe
Posted by oceanflynn (1 comment )
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