Thursday, September 14, 2006

Global Read-Write E-Textbook Initiative Launched

Several years ago students in a graduate class at the University of Georgia wrote the first version of the free e-textbook "XML: Managing Data Exchange". Later classes at U Georgia and elsewhere have improved and extended the book. Each class using the textbook has been required to leave it in better shape than they found it.

This has inspired the University of Georgia's Center for Information Systems Leadership to launch the Global Text Project (, a project to harness the creativity of college students to create open content e-textbooks for use by other students around the world.

Similar to WikiBooks, the Global Text project is interesting because much of the work will be generated by students in the supporting institutions as class assignments. Guided by faculty and editors from the project, the books will initially be produced in English and Chinese, with translations to Spanish and Arabic appearing later. The goal is to create a library of 1,000 open content electronic textbooks that will be freely available from a Web site. Distribution will also be possible via paper, CD, or DVD.

Although much of what I wrote in college was hopeless dreck, I did learn to synthesize original research, which is what textbooks do. College students produce thousands of papers on thousands of topics each year, and all of this just gets thrown out. With proper editing and guidance (and motivation), this could be an important resource. I think this is an exciting read-write culture moment.

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