Print-linked textbooks:  The next paradigm shift or just one more exploitation?
Sandra Jamieson,  Drew University 
October 7, 2000.  Louisville, KY.
Thomas R. Watson Conference on Rhetoric and Composition. 

The idea for the print-linked structure of the text you have heard described today (Coming of Age, Shamoon et al., 2000) was one Becky Howard and I had been discussing for a while as we imagined ways that new technologies might influence and shape pedagogy and the writing texts that support it.  While the academic text you have heard described here was first a response to the economic demands of the marketplace that also has sound intellectual and practical merit, the print-linked textbook is first and foremost a response to the need for a new pedagogy, and secondarily a solution to an economic problem­even as it causes economic problems of its own.   The impact of hypertext and the combination print and digital textbooks it makes possible can be imagined in several ways, as I will discuss in this paper. Our students, the children of MTV, have learned to value a variety of sites and literacies.  They tend to value image over text and expect information to be delivered in a multimedia format, only one element of which occurs in the form of the printed book. While they seem ready for the fully integrated print-linked textbook, however, neither the academic world nor the publishers seem quite so ready, and both need to work through some of the issues already described in relation to the print-linked scholarly publication.

In Hypertext 2.0, George Landow describes hypertext as making possible a "paradigm shift," which, he says, "marks a revolution of human thought" requiring that we "abandon conceptual systems founded upon ideas of center, margin, hierarchy, and linearity and replace them with ones of multilinearity, nodes, links, and networks"  and recognize "electronic writing as a direct response to the strengths and weaknesses of the printed book" (2).  He quotes J. David Bolter's claim that  "what is unnatural in print becomes natural in the electronic medium and will soon no longer need
saying at all, because it can be shown" (in Writing Space, 143. qtd in Landow, 2), explaining that our familiarity with electronic texts has helped to "decenter" the printed book, leaving us "for the first time in centuries, able to see the book as unnatural, as a near-miraculous technological innovation and not as something intrinsically and inevitably human"  allowing us to develop a "crucial intellectual distance from the book as object and as cultural product" (25). 

In her book of the same name, Kathleen Welch argues that Electric Rhetoric, "the new merger of the written and the oral . . . brings a new performance, Sophistic performance, which is postmodern in its dispensing with unity, in its repetitive constructions, and in its commitment to mixing and fragmenting the images of mass and high modernist culture" (108).  In addition to Welch and Landow, who I quoted earlier, Michael Hiem, Richard Lanham, Cynthia Selfe, Susan Hilligoss, and Myron Tuman all come to mind as theorists of the impact of hypertext or "electric rhetoric" on thought and literacy.  I think we have yet to fully realize the relationship between the simultaneously seamlessly integrated and totally fragmented oral, visual, and print literacies of hypertext.  Hypertextual literacy is a new literacy, yet, as Welch observes, it is still heavily influenced by print literacy because the values and intellectual structures of print literacy still dominate our thought patterns and structures of reasoning and value.  To deny this is to risk being seduced by the new and exciting and thus to fail to see the importance of also teaching students to understand and operate in a print-dominated culture.

As prophetic as ever, Marshall McLuhan said in 1962:

If a technology is introduced either from within or from without a culture,
and if it gives new stress or ascendancy to one or another of our senses,
the ratio among all of our senses is altered.  We no longer feel the same,
nor do our eyes and ears and other senses remain the same.  The interplay
among our senses is perpetual save in conditions of anesthesia.  But any
sense when stepped up to high intensity can act as an anesthetic for other
senses (The Gutenberg Galaxy, 24).
We need to teach writing at the site of this interplay among our senses,never allowing the visual­-or the electric­-to numb us to the power of the traditional written word, but at the same time never ignoring the impact of the visual and the oral on the thought structures that underlay our shifting and developing modern literacies.

A print-linked textbook is, above all things, then, an integrated text.  Unlike electronic textbooks published solely on the web as part of distance learning programs or as a response to the mass market requirement that forces commercial textbooks to be general, the print-linked text has a print component as well as an electronic component.  The print component is not simply part of the electronic text printed out by the user or mailed by the instructor as an adjunct to the electronic text. Nor is the electronic component simply an adjunct to the printed part, as is the case with the
many textbooks, especially in the sciences, that have dedicated websites designed to provide additional information, links, further reading, and so on.  These textbooks can be used without the electronic adjuncts, as can other textbooks, especially handbooks and rhetorics, that come with a
CD-ROM or a web site providing additional examples, exercises, and explanation.  In such cases, the electronic components enrich the print portion of the text but are not an essential part of the package.  The interplay between the senses and literacies stimulated by each is ignored.

Students using a print-linked text, on the other hand, are invited into a world of textual inter-dependency. Neither the print text nor the electronic text stands alone.  Students may find introductions to topics, reading and review questions, and writing assignments in print form and
articles, essays, explanations and images on-line.  Or they may find some of these things in print form and others on a CD-ROM or a dedicated website.  In either case, the two forms are interdependent.  A printed text could be accompanied by a CD-ROM which contains a continuation of the printed material in hypertext format and links to a dedicated website
and/or the Internet.  The hypertext can be viewed in outline format, or visually manipulated to highlight different elements, ideas, rhetorical strategies, etc.  Words can be replaced by images, spoken aloud, or set to music to show rhythms and structures.  Voice over and subtitles could
accompany filmed instructions, demonstrations, or experiments.  Narrative could be viewed as "film" or vice versa.  The possibilities are limited only by our imagination, but the essential feature is the interdependency of information delivery formats. 

College and high school students tend to find such a non hierarchical relationship quite natural.  They are used to receiving different but complimentary information simultaneously from words, images, and sound.  They are used to the nonlinear hyperactivity of music videos, video games,
and simultaneous chat software.  Yet we insist on trying to educate them using the static medium of print text and "full frontal" lecture.  We insist on the limited notion of literacy that does not include the visual, the oral, or the hyper-textual.  We insist that communication, especially academic communication, is primarily about one-way message delivery from static text to silent student, and then from silent student to static page.  We might include electronic or face-2-face communication in classes and workshops, but what we make the students buy is the printed, commercially
produced textbook, and what we grade is the printed text that they hand in­complete with correct margins, double-spaced lines, and  spell checked prose.  In so doing, we force our students into outdated literacy practices that only reflect a fraction of the literacies they will have to master to
be active citizens in the academic and non­academic worlds they inhabit.  And, I would argue that by failing to teach the full range of literacies we are, in effect, ensuring that most of them fail to be the active citizen rhetors most of us would like them to be.  Fully integrated print-linked texts offer us the medium for that education, and challenge us to develop the pedagogies to fully realize it.

While many of us are rightly concerned about the digital divide that separates the rich and poor in this country, few express concern about the print-text divide.  The science textbooks that ring up at over $100 a piece and are reissued too regularly to make used copies available.  The anthologies that contain three times the material any one class could use, and subsequently cost three times the price.  The texts that have been "dumbed down" and "flattened out" so they can appeal to the broadest possible audience, and still cost over $40 a piece.  These things should give us cause for concern.  Every US college campus has Internet access and public computers but few libraries can keep up with the flood of new textbook editions.  In contrast, the print portion of a print-linked text
could come in at under 100 pages and yet open the doors to much more information than the 1,000 page anthology­at a fraction of the price.  Updates could be made to the electronic material only, saving the cost of reprinting, yet allowing print-linked texts to be completely up-to-date and
constantly evolving to meet the needs of the students and teachers using them.  Indeed, in some cases it might be appropriate for the same print-based material to be used with more than one electronic resource, making it valuable for more than one class or applicable to different kinds
of institutions at a fraction of the cost to the publisher and to the student.

So, what are the downsides of this utopic pedagogy I propose?  I think they are the same as those faced by any new information delivery system.  Unscrupulous capitalists could charge the same amount for print-linked texts as for traditional printed texts because they can get away with it. 
Or could devise royalty structures that only reward authors for the print-portion of the text.  Editors and reviewers could continue to demand that texts operate from a current-traditional rhetoric or a lock-step process approach, which would continue to undermine critical pedagogy even though the text format would appear to support  it.  Schools and colleges could continue to fail to support faculty who would like to incorporate new technologies into the classroom, leaving them to develop new skills areas on their own time and with no financial or academic recognition.  Those same institutions could fail to consider authorship of  print-linked texts as equivalent to authorship of traditional printed texts­just as textbooks tend to be undervalued by the
majority of institutions.

Teachers could fail to spend the time learning to teach these new literacies and so resort to the information delivery systems and pedagogical practices they have always used, making these textbooks just another publishing fad that ends up having no real educational value because the theories behind it are ignored or deliberately undermined.  You can no doubt continue this list for me. 

These are real intellectual and workplace concerns.  Learning a new way of teaching takes time and it takes that time from other activities that might be more necessary, like earning money or engaging in the intellectual work required for finding full time employment or for those lucky few who have already done so, earning promotion and tenure.  And in this age of unbelievably exploited contingent labor we cannot ignore these limitations.  Yet the patronizing assumption that part time teachers lack the ability to design their own courses, develop new ideas, or respond to innovation is one of the main forces that encourages textbooks to be dumbed down and prevents full time faculty from challenging the hierarchy that too often confuses time and luck with ability.  I've heard too many WPAs say "well, that is an interesting textbook, but my teachers would never understand it / never be able to teach it."  The issue of working conditions and academic labor tend to be the invisible forces limiting pedagogical innovation, and aside from the ethical issues of employing contingent labor at below poverty level wages, I think we need to address the related issues of hierarchy and professional respect before they totally undermine our programs and prevent us from providing the literacy education we owe our students.  Teaching with technology is more time consuming than assigning readings with prepackaged questions and assignments.  Active teaching is more time consuming than passive information delivery, and challenges to traditional pedagogy need to be  explored  in the institutional contexts in which they occur.

I believe that print-linked textbooks offer incredible pedagogical advantages to our students, and to us as teachers who care about the development of our students. They challenge traditional hierarchies of value, with the printed text of the professional, published, author being given primacy.  By ceasing to valorize the printed text by the professional author, they help students to value different texts, including their own.  They invite students to see connections between different media.  They encourage different literacies and help students see the mechanisms and values of each kind.  They teach students to critique texts in different formats rather than just print-text.  They require active learning in place of passive information absorption.  They promote two way-communication rather than static one-way instruction  and regurgitation.  They allow students to learn in the non-linear way that most of them find natural. They are less expensive to produce and offer more flexibility of content.  Thus they allow textbooks to once again be produced for specific niches rather than being forced to appeal to the greatest possible number of audiences.  This, in turn, offers teachers more flexibility and a more active relationship to the material they teach.  But before such texts can be produced and have the revolutionary impact I believe they can have, we need to challenge a lot of cultural baggage that still shapes our pedagogy and working conditions.  I hope we can do that. 

Works Cited

Bolter, J. David. Writing Space: The Computer, Hytpertext, and the History of Writing.
      Hillsdale: Laurence Erlbaum, 1991.

Hiem, Michael.  Electric Language:  A Philosophical Study of Word Processing.  New 
      Haven: Yale U.P., 1987.

Landow,  George P.  Hypertext 2.0:  The convergence of Contemporary Critical Theory 
      and Technology.  Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997.

Lanham, Richard A.  The Electronic Word:  Democracy, Technology, and the Arts.  Chicago: 
      U Chicago P, 1993.

McLuhan, Marshall. The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man.  Toronto: 
      U. of Toronto P., 1962.

Selfe, Cynthia L., and Susan Hilligoss, eds. Literacy and Computers: The Complications of 
      Teaching and Learning with Technology.  New York: MLA, 1994.

Shamoon, Linda K., Rebecca Moore Hopward, Sandra Jamieson, & Robert A. Schwegler.  eds.
      Coming of Age: The Advanced Writing Curriculum (Interactive CD-ROM Included).  
      Cross Currents: New Perspectives in Composition and Rhetoric Series.  Prtsmouth, NH: 
      Heinemann-Boynton/Cook, 2000.

Tuman, Myron C. Word Perfect: Literacy in the Computer Age.  Pittsburgh: U. of Pittsburgh 
      P., 1992.

Welch, Kathleen E.  Electric Rhetoric: Classical Rhetoric, Oralism, and a New Literacy
      Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1999.

c. Sandra Jamieson, 2000.

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