The first one explains that teachers in an education course have had their students create a wiki instead of buying a textbook ("Is Higher Education Ready to Switch to Digital Course Materials?"), which may be a great model in education classes. But this made me come to a full stop:
Only 20 years ago, a university's reputation was in large part measured by the quality and extent of its library. Now many students have access at home to more information than even the greatest academic library contains. Not only is more information available, but our tools of access are becoming exponentially better — and those improvements are taking place constantly. Academe has yet to acknowledge how such trends are changing the educational process.
Now, I do believe strongly in the value of student-created materials like wikis, but when it came to this paragraph, the authors lost me. Say what? We don't need libraries now because we have access to "more information than even the greatest academic library contains"? Really? Really?. Again, maybe this is true for what they teach in education classes; I don't know about that and can't say. But to apply this to any kind of MLA field is, to put it politely, a whopper.
The second article is Mark Nelson's "Is Higher Education Ready to Switch to Digital Course Materials? The Cost of Textbooks Is Driving Electronic Solutions."
Each year one of the biggest debates in higher education seems to be: Is this the year that electronic textbooks take off? Many of the barriers are falling. E-reader devices are getting better. The inventory of digital content is expanding. Business models are emerging to support the needs of students, faculty members, and publishers. People are getting more comfortable with new modes of information delivery and the pervasiveness of technology in our lives. Discussions of the future of digital course materials are now more often about "when" than "if." . . . . Among the early adopters of e-textbooks are for-profit universities like the University of Phoenix, where most textbooks are delivered digitally, and all but a small fraction of students use e-books rather than print versions.
Leaving aside the "as the University of Phoenix goes, so goes the nation" idea (it's an online university; it makes sense that its books are delivered in that way, too), Nelson isn't wrong about the basic idea. I've done a little searching for e-textbooks, however, and they have a few drawbacks:
1. They're almost as expensive as the regular versions.
2. You rent them: that is, they expire after a period of time.
3. You can't mark them up easily.
Here's my counterproposal for "business model to fit the needs of students": free.
1. If you teach texts are out of copyright, you create a reading list based on Google books or Gutenberg (if there's a good text there).
2. Everybody brings a netbook or laptop to class and works from that. Better still: maybe a tablet notebook or laptop so that they can mark up .pdf files. If you require this, however, you end up with the problem of money and access to equipment, since not all students will have these. Heck, I don't have a tablet notebook, either.
The drawbacks, however, are the same as those for the e-textbooks.
1. Even if the reading is short and you've formatted it to be as tree-friendly as possible, students will not print it out.
2. Students can't mark up the text.
3. All the internet deficit disorders that we've been talking about for years will distract attention from the class discussion.