Exploring the Future of Textbooks

Following up from our recent Future of Textbooks event — let’s use this as a space to continue the discussion!

Check out the topics, questions, and links in the post above, and let us know if you have any further examples or ideas to share.

We’re particularly interested in how we can support exploration of these topics on Hyperlink!


Something we didn’t discuss is ad-hoc “course notes” that are open access, just not standardized or semantic-webbed in any way. Course notes are written by profs or teaching assistants and often lead to full textbooks when concatenated together. AMS has a big directory of Open Math Notes.

“Infinite Descent into Pure Mathematics” was, iirc, borne from the course notes for a math course at CMU.

UWaterloo’s Math 135 course has notes in a 200-page pdf that may well be a textbook.



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Just dug up from my bookmarks – an “online book hackathon” https://sprintbeyondthebook.com/

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Thanks Max, these links are great. Space between course notes + textbooks (and process of creating a textbook in that more evolutionary way) is very interesting. Kind of what @colingorrie is building with the conlang material.

That hackathon looks fun, reminds me of this one I went to a few years back: http://codexhackathon.com/ - not sure if any specific long term projects came out of it (and I think was a bit more open ended / less academic focus) but was a super cool space for experimenting with literary tech and seeing others’ ideas.

And thinking about the event & topics we covered, two more things that came to mind slightly after the fact—

Personal textbooks; textbook authorship as creative act and lens for learning e.g. with writing a micro-textbook as a way to explore a specific interest, and both learn about it yourself + articulate for others, internal digestion serving as potential external artifact…

Hyper-niche canonicity (related to what you mentioned re: course notes!)…thinking about how textbooks can get more and more specific and granular, e.g. not just intro linguistics or language construction but a very specific textbook for this particular sort of conlang workshop (thinking also about discussion re: proliferation of syllabus paths, collaborative annotation, dynamic selection of texts etc.)

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my favorite in this genre is probably “An Online Guide to Sequence Stratigraphy” https://strata.uga.edu/sequence/index.html . Any “lab” that is heavily involved in its own paradigm, and then communicating that paradigm, is priceless.

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Ohh awesome example. Looking through my bookmarks…a bunch that aren’t necessarily academic texts but I think great examples of detailed guides to niche topics—

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These are also cool

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Via HN, this prof has a lot of comprehensive notes pdfs, spanning domains of CS:

Proofs, Computability, Undecidability, Complexity, and the Lambda Calculus. An Introduction

Algebra, Topology, Differential Calculus, and Optimization Theory For Computer Science and Machine Learning

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