On Campus

Replacing textbooks

Liquid Textbooks are the iTunes of academic books

Looking for a more flexible textbook model, professors at several Canadian and American universities are choosing Liquid Textbooks. The electronic course packages, created by Toronto company Symtext, will, like their printed paper counterparts, include material from multiple sources like book chapters and academic articles, but they will also feature options for professors to include other media like podcasts and video.

Professors will also be able to quickly modify the texts to accommodate more up to date material. Most importantly, the liquid model will allow both professors and students to post comments, summaries and questions, to encourage more online interaction for university classrooms. Symtext, which has been selling the product since 2008, estimates that at least 100 professors, and 10,000 students, are now using Liquid Textbooks, which are less expensive than traditional course packs.

One member of Symtext`s board compared the service to iTunes. “Textbook companies have been making a killing for a long time in a business that looks astonishingly like what the old record industry looked like,“he said.

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