Friday, April 27, 2007

Textbook adoption for Physics

Started at the request of "Mike" in the comments section on PG's blog.

My biggest problem with textbooks is that they have become bloated and unreadable. Bloat makes them unreasonably expensive, and tight adoption cycles (down from a dozen years in the 60's to every 3 years now) effectively increase that expense. Bloat, driven by editorial additions rather than writing the text de novo, contributes to (un)readability as the book loses the single voice it had when originally written.

My model right now is the Hewitt's book for basic (conceptual) physical science. It is way too cutesy for my taste, but college students will read it for knowledge and enjoy doing it. It may be written somewhere around a 9th grade language level, but that keeps linguistic sophistication from getting in the way of the many difficulty ideas being presented. The focus is on the new vocabulary and concepts. Best of all, it is properly organized pedagogically.

I wish there was a calc-based book that had that approach.

There are, finally, some new books out there and I am adopting one of those. Its virtues are that it is short(er) and sweet. That also makes it cheap (although only on a relative scale) and light enough to carry, but I like that the words are chosen carefully and that the book does not obscure the main narrative with lots of cute color pictures.

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