e-textbooks -- Can they help?

Happy Monday! Hope everyone had a nice holiday.

I wrote a story for the weekend about an effort endorsed by Virginia's Education Department to update the physics curriculum by asking teachers to contribute chapters for a free, online textbook.

The digital market for textbooks has been slow to take off, even though educators love to complain about the traditional 100-pound, dead-tree variety that cost a fortune and are out-of-date soon after they hit shelves. There are probably good reasons for caution, given that states want to be careful to calibrate their texts with their curriculum standards and their exams. But still, it seems like there is room for change.

In my class, we use a textbook for homework problems, but little else. The written explanations are often confusing and the pictures and some of the "real-life applications" about skateboarders, etc. feel juvenile. (This could be because i'm an overgrown student, but still...)

Does anyone have experience with online math textbooks, or a forecast for how you think they are destined to change? Or ought to change?

Here are a couple examples of free, online textbooks that are already out there:

Collaborative Statistics, written by faculty members at De Anza College in Cupertino, California and published on the Connexions web site.

Single Variable Calculus published on the CK-12 Web site.

By Michael Alison Chandler  |  December 1, 2008; 10:05 AM ET  | Category:  Technology
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Wikipedia is mindblowingly good for advanced mathematics. My graduate school professors mention it as a good resource all the time. I have also seen for myself that it's quite often very extensive.

There must be some way to do this with school textbooks. Perhaps teachers could write the textbook chapters and the server for the books could keep track of which chapters are most in demand. This would give some feedback on what works and what doesn't.

Posted by: mathlete | December 1, 2008 2:43 PM | Report abuse

A list of free and open math textbooks is available at http://cccoer.wordpress.com/discipline-specific/

Posted by: jbakerster | December 2, 2008 2:22 PM | Report abuse

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