Another Solution to the “Textbook Problem”

Well, my vacation is over.  I leave for the airport in a few hours on United Airlines (gear under my arm) for Lexington, Kentucky, by way of Chicago.

It’s been glorious to be at home, enjoying salad lunches and evening walks with Brenda, working into a routine, starting a new book (somebody shoot me), and upgrading Citation Machine — bringing both APA and MLA schemes into compliance with the latests editions of their respective writing manuals.  I’m going back to the speaking regiment without regrets of having wasted my time off — though we really do need to work in a vacation some where, some time.  Dreams of Nova Scotia are falling with the mercury.

Flickr Photo “Melbourne Espresso Book Machine” by Joanna Penn

Just a couple of things I’ve run across in the last few days.  According to a WIRED September 17 article, there are suggestions that we turn Google around and re-print the millions of dusty old books that the search engine company has spent so much time, energy, and argument scanning so that they are digitally available to us over the network.  A number of booksellers have purchased their own $100,000 Espresso Book Machine, capable of printing, on demand, a 300 page book with color cover in about 4 minutes.

That means you can stop into the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, Vermont, and for less than $10, custom-order your own copy of Dame Curtsey’s Book of Candy Making, the third edition of which was published in 1920 and which can only be found online for $47.00 used. ((Singel, Ryan. “Google Lets You Custom-Print Millions of Public Domain Books.” WIRED  17 Sep 2009: n. pag. Web. 18 Sep 2009. <http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2009/09/google-books-publish-on-demand/>.))

I wrote about a similar practice in February of 2008 (Reading the Old in the Old Ways of Reading) using any of the on-demand publishing services to print your choice of ancients, and are lots of ways of describing this as a long-tail game-changer.  But I especially like that this technology can enable local bookstores to compete more effectively with Amazon.com.

In a similar vein, I ran across this September 17 USAToday article, This HP Printer doesn’t Need a PC to Print Stuff from he Web. ((Baig, Edward C. “This HP printer doesn’t need a PC to print stuff from the Web.” USAToday 17 Sep 2009: n. pag. Web. 18 Sep 2009. <http://www.usatoday.com/tech/columnist/edwardbaig/2009-09-16-baig-hp-web-printer_N.htm>.))  I can see several worthy niches for a device like this, but what seemed especially exciting was installing a row of these things your textbook storage room.

<sarc>You simply connect to a specially designed widget produced by your textbook publishers, and with the push of the start printing the very latest up-to-date editions of your currently studied chapter of your state board of education adopted science textbook.  If there occurs the discover of a new planetoid orbiting beyond Neptune, then you simply ask your students to toss their chapters on the Solar System and have your school secretary print out new ones.  This just makes too much sense…</sarc>

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Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.