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Will digital libraries hasten the end of the textbook?

Colleges and universities are starting to utilize technology that combines traditional textbooks with e-learning, for a multi-faceted approach to scholarship.
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor on

Could textbooks be a thing of the past? It’s unlikely that the formidable textbook industry will slip quietly into the night as more scholarly works come online. Increasingly, as portable learning devices are being incorporated into classrooms, one can envision the textbook becoming a bit obsolete.

Campus Technology reports that schools such as Central Florida Community College, Valencia (Fla.) Community College, West Chester (Pa.) University, and Indiana University are utilizing technology that combines traditional textbooks with e-learning, for a multi-faceted approach to scholarship.

University libraries are housing more electronic copies of printed works, and many libraries are creating whole new departments. Case in point: the venerable University of Virginia recently merged print and digital media into a single area called the Digital Research and Instructional Services Department. This provides easy access to all kinds of research possibilities.

“The medium is now so engaging,” Donna Tolson, director of Outreach and Instructional Services, explains (referring to age-old textbooks as “useful but dry” to most students), “it allows you to access this information in many more multifaceted ways than the printed book has done over time.”

A number of departments at U.Va. have completely replaced textbooks. The Tibetan and Himalayan Digital Library and the Geospatial and Statistical Data Center both provide digital data such as maps, photos, and text that normally would be found in print, but now can be accessed from any computer.

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