After reading Craig Mod’s June 2011 article, “Post Artifact Books and Publishing,” I was reminded of my study of history. The reason we can draw conclusions and see trends in the past is because of our distance from the events. In the midst of the eBook “paradigm change,” it is difficult to do the same because we lack that distance. Still, true visionaries such as Craig Mod help us to piece together what may be happening to eBooks. Mod argues that when we stop thinking of books as artifacts, physical and static works that are read in that singular context, we will understand the digital and connected book. Certainly there is a place for books as artifacts. There is little reason for my two favorite novels, A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens and The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald, to be digital and connected. They stand on their own as great works of literature. Alternatively, a science, math, or history text is really an ongoing conversation about what is true and what is not. The answers and applications change over time.

Last spring, I made the radical assertion that the Learning Management System (Blackboard in our case) should not contain the book (a direction Blackboard is pursuing aggressively), but the book should contain the learning management tools. My students have long told me that the book is their fundamental unit of learning. If we had to strip education of almost everything concrete, students would still prefer to have the book instead of a classroom and technology. The book represents both their anchor and compass. If we listen to our students, we will reverse engineer the teaching and learning tools we currently use, and make the book our platform for delivering content and learning. To make this proposal real rather than a vision for the future, I will develop  a prototype to test in my fall thematic world history course. To illustrate what i am talking about, peruse this preliminary and limited prototype I developed for American Diplomacy using The Learning Mag, a tool developed by Will Delamater at eReadia.

Using the eBook as the learning and content delivery tool, students will enjoy a completely dynamic learning platform in the form of their familiar book. That’s what Craig Mod was suggesting: eBooks are not analog books turned into digital form so they can be read on eReaders, tablets, and laptops. eBooks are dynamic, collaborative, ongoing discussions of knowledge that can be delivered using all of the rich media tools we are currently using in the learning management system. In short, they are one way to meet the needs of our students while still maintaining the high standards of our teachers.