It goes without saying that eTexts or eBooks (there are important differences here) are an increasingly appealing option for both faculty members/instructors and students. Mary Meeker has recently documented how 29% of adults in the US have tablet devices, up from 2% only a few years ago. Publishers will/ do/should feel enormous pressure to create texts that are available in a variety of formats, at a reduced cost (which presents its own problems, one might say) and platform agnostic, even as companies such as Courseload, working in conjunction with publishers of all stripes, start to offer services in which pdf versions, etc., of textbooks can be embedded in a dynamic interface that seems to be nothing so much as a competitor of learning management systems.
So, all of this seems to suggest that the age of the eText or eBook or eTextbook is upon us. To that end, it seems that definitions very well may matter here: while publishers or other companies may be making eTextbooks for our consumption in the future, faculty/instructors and students can very, very easily create an eText or eBook either inside or outside the classroom, using information that they either generate or use from elsewhere (a good opportunity to discuss internet and copyright with students who probably haven’t considered who owns what online). What, then, would be the value of creating or producing these artifacts in our own classrooms and what should they look like? How can we help to make these kinds of initiatives grown on our campuses with faculty members who may be quite averse to everything I’m talking about here? How should liberal arts institutions talk about the value of eTexts (both as products and the process of constructing them) to students who have certain expectations about liberal arts colleges, to others outside the institution (such as the local community), to administrators? Should we even identify artifacts of this kind, such as really cool archives of either born-digital items or non-digital texts, videos or collections of images (is a collection in the Google Art Project an eText), with the imprimatur of ‘eTexts,’ and if so, with whom would we use this title? To end this long post, I would ask, maybe we shouldn’t define eTexts, but rather, ask where or how we draw the line between eTexts and things that cannot be eTexts, since everything, it seems could be one? Perhaps a book sprint is in order here-