The open textbook niche

A sobering Sunday read about how elementary and secondary school textbooks are put together today: "Afraid of your child's math textbook? You should be."

At the end of this project, the same project manager mused to me aloud, I want to know who buys this crap. Crap. That was the word she used after all her exhausting efforts trying to make a silk purse out of this pigs ear. My reply to her was, I want to know who buys it twice. Because thats the only way educational publishers make money, on repeat sales. Those books are out there now in print, on the shelves in the publishers warehouse, being packed and shipped to a school near you. So who are you people who choose to buy these books? Identify yourselves. Because you, too, a part of the problem.

The author describes a world of marketing textbooks to committees and the resulting lack of seriousness about content in favor of short timelines and visually attractive fluff. A commenter points out that part of the problem is the removal of authors from the process -- whereas the college market typically has textbooks where authors take responsibility for content, the elementary and secondary textbook market more often features "educational programs" developed by a large group of writers on a short timeline.

I have the hope that open source textbooks will begin to change this market, but publishers will continue to work on persuading committees with goodies, just as pharma reps push products that do no better than generic treatments.