The Textbook’s Crumbling Monopoly

Updated: May 26


But that is no longer the case today. The textbook’s monopoly on knowledge is crumbling (if it hasn’t already). Scan any university campus or peek in on any dorm room and you will see fewer books. Why? Well aside from the astronomically inflated cost of textbooks at campus bookstores, the model in which students acquire knowledge is diversifying. There is no singular source anymore. Course instructors are championing the idea of hooking up lots of hoses to deliver a variety of sources. Blogs. Quora threads. Wikis. Videos. Podcasts. Digital periodicals. Articles. The list of “new” sources is growing every day — and it even includes the digitized versions of the good ol’ textbook. The general idea here is that knowledge is fluid; it doesn’t exist in a single artifact. Across all disciplines, it is developing daily.

The textbook’s fall from total domination allows students to become more active participants, co-curators.

For example, an economics textbook from 2010 likely doesn’t address the rapidly expanding on-demand personal transportation economy and its players like Uber and Lyft. Similarly, the most current mass media communications textbook probably has little, if anything, to say about the rise of Tumblr or Medium as publishing platforms. By disassembling the textbook’s knowledge source monopoly, knowledge acquisition becomes more real-time. It becomes more relevant, current and relatable. It becomes experiential. And it happens in digital space with which today’s student is extremely comfortable, if not the norm.