Most useful textbook and academic posts of the week: September 27, 2019

“I don’t think of literature as an end in itself. It’s just a way of communicating something.” ~Isabel AllendeIsabel Allende once said, “I don’t think of literature as an end in itself. It’s just a way of communicating something.” In reflection on this quote, TAA member Caroline Eisner commented on our LinkedIn page, “Allende seems a strong proponent of the idea that writing needs to communicate something TO SOMEONE, a strong appeal to writing with audience awareness. As if, without that awareness, literature doesn’t exist? Just thinking out loud here.”

This week’s collection of articles addresses similar thought, with focus on what publications matter at what stages of your career; the idea that writing is more than technical skill, but rather a capacity to apply knowledge; and the ability to use our skills as examples to others through mentoring or models. As more colleges try classes without textbooks, discussed in our final article, it’s right to consider whether literature is an end in itself or just a way of communicating something.

As you write this week, consider your audience and your form of writing. Are they aligned and do they communicate the ideas you intend to share with those for whom they are intended? Happy writing! [Read more…]

10 Classic and contemporary textbook features you may not be thinking about…but should

highlighted textbookDuring his 2019 TAA Textbook & Academic Authoring Conference presentation, “Textbook Features You May Not Be Thinking About… But Should!”, veteran textbook author Kevin Patton shared details about both classic – not “old” – and contemporary textbook features for consideration when designing a learning experience for your readers.

Starting with an exploration of the textbook as part of a learning experience for the student, Patton advised looking at the pain points, how they can be addressed, and what already works in the classroom. From there, it’s a matter of finding the right design elements to deliver the content in a meaningful way for the students using your book. Below are ten features for consideration. [Read more…]

Most useful textbook and academic posts of the week: September 6, 2019

Trust yourselfThis week’s collection of articles from around the web begins with prompts to stimulate your thinking and methods for finding papers for your literature review. It continues with the importance of validating faculty research, consideration of your timeline for finishing a PhD, and expectations when presenting research to an industry audience. Finally, we have some noteworthy industry news on cost per use value models, the value of the big deal, the Cengage-McGraw Hill merger, and a new textbook model at UC Davis.

Neil Gaiman once said, “The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it ­honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.” This week, trust yourself and happy writing! [Read more…]

What do modern students want in a textbook? Writers want to know.

tablet with ebook in front of stack of print booksI was intrigued by an article in Research Information, a newsletter for libraries and publishers. “The rise and rise of e-reading” discussed the growth in electronic textbooks and articles. As a writer I have been intrigued by the potential for embedding interactive components and live links in texts, but disappointed to find that such materials are more typically relegated to a companion website. In my previous faculty role, I noticed a gap between the university’s enthusiasm for adopting e-books, and my students’ preference for paper textbooks. As a reader, I prefer e-books when I read for enjoyment, but usually like paper when I am working with textbooks. I thought I’d dig a bit more, and share what I discover with you, my fellow writers.

What did publishers say in “The rise and rise of e-reading”? [Read more…]

The most useful textbook & academic posts of the week: December 14, 2018

"Everything you want is on the other side of fear." ~Jack CanfieldEndings can be challenging. Whether it’s the end of a project, the end of a semester, the end of a life phase, or even the end of a calendar year. What makes ending so difficult is often the uncertainty of what’s next rather than the closure of what has been.

This week’s collection of posts from around the web begins with an example of a fourth year PhD candidate working toward completion of the program and advice on transitioning between career or writing phases. It continues with guidance on how to start collaborative projects, a challenge to dance your PhD, and eight ways to write theory very badly. Finally, we close with the uncertainty of the publishing industry for textbook authors, an introduction to branding, and ways to work with contributing authors in an edited book.

As we approach the final few weeks of 2018, we encourage you to look back over the year and your accomplishments with your writing projects. Close off what has earned completion status in the weeks and months that have come to pass, and prepare yourself for all that 2019 has in store. Look at your next project, career opportunity, or calendar page with excitement rather than nervousness. After all, as Jack Canfield once said, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” Happy writing! [Read more…]

The most useful textbook & academic posts of the week: September 7, 2018

"The only thing I was fit for was to be a writer, and this notion rested solely on my suspicion that I would never be fit for real work, and that writing didn't require any." ~Russell BakerRussell Baker once said, “The only thing I was fit for was to be a writer, and this notion rested solely on my suspicion that I would never be fit for real work, and that writing didn’t require any.” As writers, we can certainly acknowledge the work such a craft requires, and in the genres of academic and textbook authoring the wide range of additional concerns for balance, accuracy, research integrity, and innovation in our writing efforts.

This week our collection of posts from around the web begins with a question, “Are there only four kinds of writers?” inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s book, The four tendencies. This evaluation of a writer is paired with authoring benefits, ways to improve academic output, time and energy management, research methods, diversity in peer review, critical and creative thinking, and privacy in user research – all factors of consideration for the academic author, regardless the type. Finally, we close this week’s list with considerations of the future of our profession, with new approaches to textbook development and e-book potential, the realities of open source and scholarly publishing, and significant changes in the trend toward open access in scientific publishing.

As you embark on your writing efforts in the week ahead, I encourage you to recognize and embrace the real work involved in the writing process and to find encouragement and support to continue those efforts. Happy writing! [Read more…]

The most useful textbook & academic posts of the week: August 31, 2018

"Half of my life is an act of revision." ~John Irving“Half of my life is an act of revision.” Wise words from John Irving for all writers and ones that thread through our collection of posts this week.

We begin with discussions of how to manage multiple writing projects, interpret data visualizations, and use diary methods in qualitative research. We then share practical advice on successful publishing in journals, informed consent, fellowships, and balancing a PhD with a family. Closing out our list is the prediction that textbooks are here to stay, along with new resources including scholarly podcasts, open and interoperable annotation, YouTube videos, and open science tools.

Whether you are revising a manuscript or your writing craft this week, we hope that you will find value in some of the resources below. Happy writing! [Read more…]

Re-engineering the modern textbook: A conceptual shift from content delivery to learning design

ebook from a print bookTextbooks have historically provided the core content from which teachers develop and deliver learning experiences to their students – a static, paper manuscript delivering conceptual knowledge and exercises to reinforce the material. As mobile technology has provided alternative ways to access and read content in electronic form, most textbooks have been distributed in an e-book format (commonly ePub or PDF) as well, but is this “new” format providing any benefit to student learners?

Arguably the costs of this paperless format are less; search features can improve the speed at which content can be located; and assistive technology, such as screen readers and magnification tools, can improve the accessibility of the information over the print alternative. But, does the technology improve learning? [Read more…]

Paper or digital? How to decide the format for your monograph or book

Paper or e-book?A question continues in some stores, “Paper or plastic?” While recyclable bags may make this a thing of the past, other questions continue. Authors continue to ponder whether their book should be a paper copy or an eBook. While this is an important discussion, it should not cause deep thinking.

The obvious answer is both. If a publisher is wise, it will offer a book or monograph in both formats. This is a smart consumer-centric option. Let the buyer decide which they prefer. Let’s discuss, though, each format to see where the market is and the virtues of each one. [Read more…]

The most useful textbook & academic posts of the week: March 30, 2018

"The next best thing after finishing writing a chapter is starting a new one." ~Chris AlmeidaWe begin this week’s collection of textbook & academic posts from around the web with a royalty calculation update from Cengage as it relates to their Cengage Unlimited service. We then have several articles of interest to textbook authors and faculty considering OER textbook options. Finally, we found advice for academic writers on structuring papers, coping with peer review processes, and being scholar-activists.

Chris Almeida put it best when he said, “The next best thing after finishing writing a chapter is starting a new one.” As you write this week, we hope the end of March brings with it some finished work, and the start of April brings with it new beginnings in your writing. [Read more…]