January 06, 2010

Textbooks

Textbooks are a cop out.

Sure, some classes require it. You can't teach a math or science class without assigning a textbook full of math problems and dry explanations.

However, for the courses dealing with the softer parts of science, teachers who assign textbooks are taking the easy way out. Why don't teachers assign actual books? They are cheaper, more enjoyable, and do a better job of getting the point across.

Marketing classes should assign Seth Godin, business classes should read Chris Anderson, and my class about technology diffusion should be centered around Malcom Gladwells' Tipping Point.

Yes, these authors offer one-sided views of marketing, business and technology.

However, what is wrong with that? I have never seen a discussion break out in a classroom over a textbook. Textbooks present things in a matter-of-fact manner. Books, on the other hand, spark debate. After all, look at how bloggers took sides when Malcom Gladwell wrote his scathing review of Chris Anderson's Free.

Maybe I'm biased. However, you can learn a lot more from the so-called Airport Books, the "elite class of business titles that I see sold in airport newsstands next to the magazines and crappy romance novels"((Coined by Anil Dash, Free Criticism, Science After Data, and Airport Books)) than you can from the expensive, monotonous textbook teachers feel obligated to assign.

There is a silver lining, however. Go and read on your own. You will be a few steps ahead of the people stuck reading textbooks.

About Gregory Koberger

I'm a freelance developer and designer, formerly of Mozilla. I talk a lot about web development, technology and user experience — sometimes on my blog but mostly on Twitter.

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