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College and university textbooks are notoriously expensive. As a Toronto Star story from earlier this year explains, “engineering and medical textbooks are particularly expensive and can range from $150 to $300 for a single book. It’s not unusual for students in other areas of study to spend more than $1,000 annually on textbooks.”

So how is digital technology affecting on the textbook business? According to a New York Times story from this past weekend:

many educators say that it will not be long before they are replaced by digital versions — or supplanted altogether by lessons assembled from the wealth of free courseware, educational games, videos and projects on the Web.

That kind of free courseware may come in the form of “freemium” products, like the textbooks from Flat World Knowledge, a company profiled by Wired Magazine editor Chris Anderson in his recent book FREE. Flat World Knowledge publishes “‘open textbooks,’ free works that can be edited, updated, and remixed into custom course materials.” These open textbooks are free to read online, with printed copies and audiobook versions available as paid options.

Another way to get textbooks is to steal them. Like music, movies, and television shows, digital versions of physical textbooks are easy to share online with little regard for copyright. Though the world’s largest textbook BitTorrent site, TextBook Torrents, shut down last fall, you don’t have to look hard to find questionably legal copies of textbooks on various file sharing networks.

What about you? Are you a student (or the parent of a student)? Where do you get your textbooks? Would you consider buying a digital textbook?

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I couldn’t have said it better myself, so I won’t even try. Check out decor8 and the great post Spool Design {& 5 tips for a better shop}. Highly recommended.

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I’ve given up on Vienna (nice interface, but its habit of skipping posts for no apparent reason drove me to distraction). Now I’m trying NewsFire. Mostly because I absolutely hate this:

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No, I don’t want to look for new stuff to add. And, no, I don’t want an ‘artist’ theme. Thank you very much.

You’re a search engine. Get over it.


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Then go out and buy yourself one of these.


Alumni Magazine

24Aug09

Mag Culture reviewed the latest offering from Luke Hayman: The Harvard Alumni magazine. Since it never made it to press, the only way to see it is online here Jeremy didn’t show much of the insides so here are a few really great spreads showing how impactful illustration really can be.

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Andres Jaque Arquitectos has just completed a seminary renovation that would inspire envy among any rock star or nightclub owner.

The seminary of the Plasencia Diocese in Spain had been operating out of two buildings, from the 15th and 19th century. But as the community services of the diocese has grown, they’ve found themselves pinched for space. And the old architecture itself was geared to keeping priests and students apart from the communities they served–there weren’t spaces to provide a more neutral middle ground. So Andres Jaque Arquitectos responded not by scrapping the old digs, but joined them up, with a new 12,500 square foot extension. The new building now has a combined 57,000 square feet, including gardens on the ground level on the roof, 21 apartments for the priests and seminarians, and a slew of meeting rooms and recreation areas to serve the flock.

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Check out Arch Daily for more pictures.


David McCandless, an information designer based in London, was flummoxed by all the talk being bandied about, over government programs running into the billions. So he created a chart of the entire mess. As he writes over at Information is Beautiful:

This image arose out of a frustration with the reporting of billion dollar amounts in the media. That is, they’re reported as self-evident facts, when, in fact, they’re mind-boggling and near incomprehensible without context. But they can start to be understood visually and relatively, IMHO.

Below is a resized version of the full-size chart, that you’ll want to click on for legibility. It’s an excellent visual supplement to the news we’re swimming in everyday.

But there is one huge caveat that should be made about the data: The graph is dominated by $7.8 trillion supposedly spent by the U.S. government on bailouts in the present financial crisis. But that number isn’t like the others–as The New York Times reports, that massive figure is actually a hypothetical estimate of what the government might be on the hook for if the financial system actually collapses. The actual budgeted cost of the bailout program is around $2 trillion–which is obviously enormous, but is actually a trillion less than what’s been spent on the Iraq war.

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