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Books versus the Internet

January 19, 2009

Hello again,

I was asked if I thought the easy availability of Internet resources was adversely affecting the sales of ELT books. Unfortunately I have no statistics...

...with which to answer this question but instinct is to say no.

Firstly, publishers are bringing out just as many new books as ever: just look at the catalogues of the major publishing houses. Secondly, I think the two media complement rather than rival each other. It is easier to organise a schedule of exercises and homework round a book and the student has a concise record of the work to keep. In contrast, time can be wasted in searching for appropriate materials on Internet and then there is all the fuss of printing the sheets and filing them. So, books I think keep many of their traditional advantages.

On the hand, the infinite variety available on the Internet gives teachers and learners opportunities to select what they really need rather than what a publisher tells them they need. So it is easy to supplement a book with additional material hunted down online. Also, with interactive sites students can work independently and get instant feedback. Thus the Internet offers invaluable additional resources that mean that neither teachers nor learners are slaves to the textbook.

A further point is that authors now incorporate Internet activities into their course material and give guidance on such issues as writing emails, using search engines, using dictionaries online etc. And publishers will often set up a web-site to go alongside a book or make samples of material available online as tasters (http://www.cambridge.org/elt/inuse/puntDemo/index.htm).

On balance, therefore, I think the Internet has possibly influenced how materials are now produced but I don’t see it as ending the role of the book.

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  1. David Reed Says:

    Hey! I agree with you!

    Textbooks are a great resource to build a lesson/course around. Of course, the trick is to find a good one. (My favourites are often by Jack C Richards.)

    It's amazing how anti-textbook some Western teachers can be. In contrast, in Asia the textbook is king. When my ex-colleague decided to spend their valuable summer holidays creating new material to replace the textbook, they......

    ...... photocopied more textbooks! Not quite my idea of producing new material, but maybe the way to create the ultimate super-textbook! Copyright wasn't a big concern, either!

    As a teacher, I'm often disappointed with the EFL material on the net. A great resource for motivated higher level students, but, as you say, a great way for teachers to waste valuable time in the chaotic WWW!

    Personally, I can say that I learned most of my teaching knowledge from theory reading books and browsing textbooks and teaching resource books.

    Long live books!

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