Monday, 1 March 2010

The 'perpetual beta' textbook

Interesting post in iMedical Apps. Excerpt:
However, while renting textbooks may seem like a strange and wondrous departure for those of us who still pridefully maintain shelves of outdated medical textbooks, the more necessary revolution will actually be upending the illusion of completion when a textbook finally reaches the printing press.

By this, I am suggesting the barrier between finished textbooks and the rapidly evolving nature of medical knowledge most certainly needs to be more porous. Going even further, the interactive and non-linear nature of learning are at odds with the centuries-old format of a linear, immutable text.

This is not to say that textbooks are anachronisms. Something very valuable comes out of the care and scrutiny of an author polishing each paragraph and page with great care. But, why should the craftsmanship stop at the moment of publication?

Why indeed? I was thinking of this when reading the New Yorker's recent profile of Paul Krugman and the account therein of his struggles to complete an economics textbook.

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