Best of BTB: What Students Can Teach Textbook Authors

On June 21 -22, CCC joins the Text & Academic Authors Association (TAA) for its annual conference with an educational presentation on copyright. This week’s CCC podcast features textbook editor Michael Greer, whose research has found that students have a lot to teach publishers when it comes to textbooks.

2013 TAA Conferece

Michael Greer

Today’s readers – students especially – have high expectations of e-books and other digital media. Ever-evolving technology for tablets and e-readers makes the race to keep up a daunting one for publishers and authors. The leap from printed page to pixel-ed screen demands new strategies for content development.

“We need to learn more about how students are learning, and how they’re interacting with various kinds of content,” explains Michael Greer, Senior Development Editor, English, for Pearson Education, who spoke with CCC’s Chris Kenneally last fall at the PubWest 2012 conference in Keystone, Colorado .

“One of the mantras that I preach is to learn as much as you can about your user – always start with users, understand their needs, and understand how they’re engaging with your content,” Greer added. “It’s no longer enough simply to output an ePub file; people expect a different kind of experience when they’re on a mobile device. Whether that’s a phone or an iPad, it’s not just the experience of straight text. People want to learn and engage with content in a variety of different kinds of ways.”

In 2010, also at the annual PubWest conference, Greer discussed “Usability Studies in Textbook Design.” Collaborating with Prof. Tharon Howard of Clemson University, Greer had contributed to the then-recently-published collection, Usability of Complex Information Systems, Evaluation of User Interaction. That account of textbook usability studies with contemporary college students revealed, he said, that “the conventions that teachers are familiar with are not familiar to students.”

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