Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2012


In contemporary times, access to educational materials has exploded. On-demand printing has opened doors for narrow-audience and amateur textbooks; open-source texts and class materials such as MIT’s OpenCourseWare are available to anyone with internet access. These changes in access to materials and the types of materials utilized raise questions about the role of textbooks in higher education. What is the future shape of educational materials? Are textbooks still relevant? To answer these questions, I investigated introductory physics books of the 1900s, using Resnick and Halliday’s Fundamentals of Physics as a case study. I have concluded that great textbooks in higher education are the product of three things: field testing, a progressive vision, and timing. Textbooks are no longer relevant in their current static form – even publishers are moving to other products. It has been 50 years since the last great physics textbook (Halliday and Resnick) was introduced. I believe educators and institutions are ready for a new wave of change. In conclusion, I present several non-conventional learning materials – a simulation by Bret Victor, an inquiry based Scheme book, and a piece of collaborative document annotation software – which I believe are representative of the future direction of educational materials.