E-Textbooks: Half-Measures Save Profits

There should be some sort of capitalist aphorism that says, “half-measures save profits.” That’s how I feel about my cable company. If they really took advantage of the technology available, I’d be able to create my own cable channel subscription, skipping things like those sports channels, and saving myself a lot of time and money. It’s so simple that it’s hard to see anyone doing it.

It’s be even better if I could change my line-up whenever I wished. If I realized that I didn’t like a channel mid-month I could unsubscribe and not be charged the rest of the month; if I wanted to save money, I could cut down the number of channels temporarily. The same might go for phone service if I had a cell and didn’t want to pay for the land line for a particular month.

“Half-measures save profits,” means the cable companies will use technology but that it will take them years to get to the point where I can take full advantage of the new possibilities. This is exactly what I was thinking about when I read “The End of the Textbook as We Know It.” Universities should be switching to Wiki-based textbooks, not helping textbook companies.

It’s not the end of the textbook, it’s the start of the end of one profit system and the attempt to create an equally profitable alternative before someone realizes we don’t need either. It’s all enormously wasteful and unnecessary. We should just skip this step and instead invest the money in a new non-profit network of shared online textbooks. It’s simple and cheap.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and Smarthinking.com. I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol] writinginthewild.com

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