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The promise and pitfalls of authoring your own e-textbook

Brandtly Jones

This presentation will offer practical advice for authoring an e-textbook and implementing it successfully in your courses. We will weigh the relative advantages of the e-textbook versus other methods of content delivery, and we will consider which types of courses and material would most benefit from the teacher-authored e-textbook. I will take the audience through the entire authoring process, from choosing a platform to distribution and implementation in the classroom. Finally, I will offer advice on pedagogical best practices based on my own experience teaching with an e-textbook I authored to teach a course to advanced (post-AP) secondary school Latin students.

With many quality teaching materials in print and online, an instructor might with justification ask “Why bother authoring an e-textbook for my class?”  Few teachers have the time or inclination to design an introductory language textbook, and this presentation will not recommend doing so. Intermediate and advanced courses, however, tend to be more wide-open in terms of topic, author, genre, etc. E-textbooks give the instructor great control over curating the content of the course, and they can provide a more unified experience than a course website or hard-copy course packet. By controlling  the layout and design of curated content, the instructor can provide the student a rich and interactive experience which can enhance learning. We will discuss some of the interactive possibilities in e-book authoring.

Once a teacher has decided to author his or her own text for a course, s/he must make some decisions, beginning with which platform to use to author the e-textbook. Apple’s iBooks Author is currently the most popular choice, but many institutions have a “Bring your own device” (BYOD) policy. That is, students may or may not be accessing your content via an Apple device. We will discuss open platform alternatives to iBook Author, as well as ways of facilitating non-Apple users even when authoring with iBooks Author, and the trade-offs inherent in each choice.

I will share some of the best sources for acquiring Greek and Latin texts, commentary, and ancillary content, some well-known, and some which deserve to be better-known. Many fine resources are out of copyright and freely available on the web through such outlets as Textkit, Google Books, Project Guttenberg, and  We will also discuss the inclusion of copyrighted material in your work and the boundaries of “fair use” in a digital context. Manner of distribution of your e-textbook and the decision of whether to charge money for your work affect copyright considerations, and I will provide up-to-date guidelines on dealing with these issues.

Finally, I will offer suggestions and caveats based on my own experience in the classroom teaching the early history of Rome to advanced (post-AP) secondary school students using an e-textbook of my own design. This course incorporates a variety of ancient sources, some read in Latin and some in English translation, as well as selections from  historical novels to tie the readings together. I will share how I hoped the students would use the text...and how they actually did so. I will also share feedback from the students themselves regarding their experience and offer advice on best practices for teaching with an e-textbook.

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