Desktop: Free textbooks, anyone?

The information in Wikibook textbooks is the same information in the textbooks you pay for in the bookstore.

By DAVID SHAMAH
August 31, 2006 12:57
4 minute read.
Desktop: Free textbooks, anyone?

wikibooks 88. (photo credit: )

 
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One day, very soon, you'll wake up and be more in love with the world than you have been in a while . The sun will shine brighter, the birds will sing a happier song, and everyone you meet will have a big, wide smile on their face. If they're like us, that is. That day, I promise, will be here very soon. In fact, in about two days - when school begins! That's when the adult race gets to breathe a sigh of relief. After two months of "I'm bored," the young ones will now have the work and challenges they so obviously crave. They're going back to school! And we, the long suffering adults? We shall sing a song of praise. We're free... at least until the next vacation. Of course, freedom comes at a price - a steep one, in this case. On paper, the local school system looks like a good deal; elementary grade schools are usually free, while tuition in high school is a mere fraction of what a Jewish day school in the US would cost. But there are the "extras" - like paying for school textbooks, which pushes the price up considerably. In nearly all Israeli schools, textbooks - often "new" editions - have to be purchased for each new school year. Sometimes you get a break, with schools utilizing the same book more than once. And of course, there are the "classics," like the Tanach, that even the book publishers don't dare tamper with (although that doesn't mean they can't try). But when it comes to math, science, language and other subjects, parents have to shell out plenty of shekels for textbooks that really don't vary much from year to year. What's so much better about an astronomy textbook published in 2006, than one published in 2002? Certainly they haven't discovered any new planets since then (or have they? See http://tinyurl.com/oxpfj) Of course, there are some ways around this textbook switcheroo scam. In many communities, enterprising parents hold book trading fairs prior to the beginning of the school year, where they sell their no longer needed fifth grade textbooks to the next set of ten-year-olds, while they shop for books on the sixth grade list from parents whose kids have outgrown those books. Some parents organize during the previous school year and attempt to prevail upon the school administrators to keep using the ninth edition of a math textbook that is in plentiful, cheap supply at used book outlets, instead of opting for the newly published eleventh edition that can only be purchased in its fresh-off-the-press, much more expensive form. But wait - there's an even cheaper way to go! Full editions of math, science (grade and high school level), and language textbooks can be aquired for free from the amazing Wikibooks site (http://en.wikibooks.org http://en.wikibooks.org/>), and if enterprising parents can convince teachers to assign texts that can be downloaded free from this site, they can save a bundle on their textbook bills! A Wiki, as some of you may already know, is a type of public information database that can be edited by anybody. The most well-known Wiki, of course, is the Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org), the burgeoning Internet encyclopedia with information about everything under the sun, written and edited by users. The idea is for readers to enhance entries with their own feedback, making them as accurate as possible. And what Wikipedia has done to Encyclopedia Brittanica, Wikibooks hopes to do to textbook publishers. A Wikibook textbook may or may not be a text already published. Many of the books have been specifically prepared for the Wikibooks site, while others are in the public domain or produced under licenses that allow free access. But the information in Wikibook textbooks is the same information in the textbooks you pay for in the bookstore. Take geometry - please! Is 2004 a recent enough printing for a subject whose principles were established thousands of years ago? Such a textbook should certainly be acceptable for use in any 2006 classroom, and that is the publishing date for one of the geometry texts available at Wikibooks (http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Geometry/Motivation). It was developed by a professional, based on state of California curriculum standards. Wikibooks has similar, comprehensive textbooks on almost any subject taught in junior or high school - and even college, with texts available on calculus, social work, and even US and English law. What's that, you say - the school wants the textbooks it assigns to be in Hebrew? Well, in that case, just scroll down to the bottom of the main Wikibooks page and click on the Hebrew link (one of dozens of languages available) to check out textbooks on math, science, and other subjects, including texts to teach Bagrut students, as well as a large assortment of practice Bagrut tests in various subjects. Here's a suggestion: Invite your kids' school principal and/or teacher for some coffee, and introduce him/her to Wikibooks. Then tell them that the more you save by using free textbooks, the more money you'll have to pay higher taxes, which will go to giving them raises. If that doesn't motivate them to enlist Wikibook's free textbooks, nothing will. Ds@newzgeek.com

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