Textbook 2.0: Open Source Textbooks and Multimodal Composition Programs — Computers and Writing 2009

Chair. Bonnie Kyburz, Utah Valley State University

Planning for Sustainability in Multimodal First-Year Composition Programs
Michele Ninacs, Buffalo State College

Fast, Free, and On the ‘Net: The Story of a Self-Published Textbook
Steve Krause, Eastern Michigan University

How College Textbook Publishers Will Thrive in Ubiquity. Or Die Trying.
Nick Carbone, Bedford/St. Martin’s

Planning for Sustainability in Multimodal First-Year Composition Programs
Michele Ninacs, Buffalo State College

conducted a study of Miami University of Ohio in order to examine their
process of consensus building in support of a first-year multimodal
composition program. I found that issues of sustainability were
integral to the development of the program. This presentation will
examine the findings from my research, and will address issues of
sustainability of multimodal composition curriculums in first-year
composition programs.

Came to education through theater, ended up teaching.

As a college student, felt that writing was limiting because she knew so many other ways to communicate. Learned that people looked funny at her when she mentioned “multimodality”.  (One instructor sniffed that perhaps she meant interpretive dance.)  Has been interpreted as “giving up words.”  Lead her to a dissertation question — how to get people on board with multimodal interpretations in the composition classroom?

Challenges we face getting started are the same we face with sustaining this kind of work.  (Technology, space, training…)  Larger issue — engaging existing ideologies on campus & if necessary altering them. The ideology is the source of the deal-breakers.  Curricular changes fail not because of funding and facilities, but because we can’t get back ideological positioning (teachers teaching the way they’ve been taught). 

Address it — how?  We talk about marketing / selling.  Need to pay attention to the grammar & vocabulary that allows us to reach out to stakeholders across campus.

Rather than saying that you should abandon your pedagogy and adopt ours, the advocates validated the ideologies underpinning other ideologies.  Never tried to say someone was wrong or that their work was not valid. (Complaints that tech advocates are poaching resources.)

Multimodality in freshman comp — will it make make multimodaility acceptable in other academic disciplines? Does it impact employability? 

Fast, Free, and On the ‘Net: The Story of a Self-Published Textbook
Steve Krause, Eastern Michigan University

will discus why he ultimately made his textbook project available
electronically for free. The review process and corporate demands of
the textbook industry makes it difficult for small, niche-focused
projects in the marketplace. However, electronic self-publishing
represents a viable alternative.

(with special guest Matt Barton)

Tells story of his own plans to write a textbook (which “counts” at EMU).  “The idea of writing something and actually getting paid for it is novel for most academics.”  We hear stories about superstar academics that get huge advances, but a part-time job at Starbucks would pay better than writing an academic textbook.

Got an advance from McGraw-Hill, got to work.


  • A textbook <20,000 sales is a “failure”
  • (An academic press would consider a 200-500 run a “success”.)
  • 7 of 10 reviewers have to want to immediately want to adopt the book RIGHT NOW!
  • Textbook industry is seeking blockbusters.

So, where’s your book?

Produced an edited manuscript that was completely finished, but didn’t pursue the project any further. But the publisher still has the rights (unless you give the money back).

Uses Raiders of the Lost Ark warehouse scene.  (Adds “My book.” label.)

Got the rights back, so long as he didn’t make any money.

Krause’s The Process of Research Writing.

Online version got more visits that it would have if hiding in the Raiders of the Lost Ark warehouse.

“Everyone who teachers first-year writing ought to write a textbook.”

Links to Matt Barton’s video, “Using Wikis to Author Textbooks”

(Audio was very low. Showed a clip from about the last 5 minutes. Emphasized the power of collaboration and potential for student engagement.)

Krause — not against the blockbuster, but the process of textbook authorship changes. Slapping something up on the web “A monkey could do that.”  Print on demand is an under-utilized resource. Kindles and other tablets.

We know what money is, but everyone in academia has some understanding of capital. Academics are fine without the money (to an extent), but the capital for us is important. Noted that if there’s a system that permits people to achieve capital for these sorts of projects, more people will do them.

How College Textbook Publishers Will Thrive in Ubiquity. Or Die Trying.
Nick Carbone, Bedford/St. Martin’s

will discuss open source texts/learning resources from the industry’s
perspective. Revenues have decreased because of used book sales while
publishers spend more on online tools instructors and students expect
for free. Ironically, open and modified source publishing models might
relieve both of these pressures and present new opportunities.

Opened by saying that he doesn’t trust technology.  Publishers believe in the ideology of inclusion, and said that as a publisher, he believes in the value of open source publication. Collaboratively written, socially-developed texts, letting people build on existing texts benefits publishing.  Notes that another textbook is a form of competition, and open source is just another form of competition.

People suppose, Why pay for this if you can get it elsewhere for free?

Discovered that people misunderstand what publishers do. Said he didn’t like using books in his teaching, but eventually began using handbooks (despite how great the Purdue Owl is).  Publisher says he’s not in the textbook business… Bedford St Martin is in “the pedagogical tools business.”  Also in the “editorial development” business, who sits down with the author and go through  the process Steve described.  The publisher is hiring someone with a pedagotical vision that’s not being met in any other books or media that’s currently out there.  Is this a good idea? Can the person pull it off? Do we want this person in our life?  If yes to all 3, then the project goes forward.  Less an issue of whether it will sell 20,000 (though that does go into the “good idea” component).  (Still gets royalty checks from online writing book he hasn’t worked on in 8 years.)  Myth of the 7 out of 10 reviewers is dependent on those other 3 questions.

Imagines that in the future, BSM may shift to editorial services that involve teaching people how to use databases for pedagogical solutions. 

Right now, the point of access is print.  Referred to the Starbucks principle — the chain comes in to an area and the local coffee shop thrives because Starbucks has helped to create a local market for coffee.