As I wrote last week, most current eBooks are linear books — Generally fiction, with some narrative non-fiction. As I was reading about that, I came across the BioBooks project, well-described in the title of the article on it that’s excerpted below: “Reinventing the College Textbook: A digital textbook project that uses a non-linear approach to learning.”

The BioBooks project is being done at Wake Forest University, by physicist Jed Macosko and biologist Dan Johnson. Macosko is interviewed by Campus Technology writer Bridget McCrea (boldface added):

Macosko: We tested out the idea of using an iPad as a textbook and then went further by making the information non-linear. Instead of going from chapter to chapter, students get to choose their own “adventure.” That’s how the BioBook was born.

McCrea: What’s the significance of non-linear books?

Macosko: Dan has spent a lot of time studying learning theory and is a neurologist himself. He understands the way the brain works. It has been shown that humans learn best when they can put facts into the order that makes the best sense to them. (more)

I’ve written before about other types of books that don’t fit into the current linear model of eBooks — Reference books and childrens’ books, as discussed by Dominique Raccah; and cookbooks, travel guides, and encyclopedias, discussed by Jakob Nielsen and Paul Biba. To that list, then, textbooks are another addition, and one whose lucrative market is likely to bring much BioBooks-like experimentation soon. As with BioBooks, much of this future development will certainly be on iPads or other tablets.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

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