If you have ever read what I've written here or if you know anything about me, you know I am anything but a Luddite. Having said that, though, I find myself reconsidering the effectiveness of digital textbooks. I'm a smart enough guy to be discerning about the contents of the books I read and I don't jump on the bandwagon for every book on my reading list. I think critically and analytically and I devote significant amounts of mental energy weighing the content of everything I read. This most recent read is no exception.
I haven't completely formulated my theory yet, but here is my initial thought: Digital textbooks, hyped because of the interactive content (hyperlinks, embedded video and audio clips, etc.), may actually prevent students from concentrating for extended periods of time and, therefore, may be less effective than traditional textbooks for students trying to grasp difficult concepts or commit to memory large amounts of information.
I'm not suddenly opposed to all digital textbooks. I can see great advantages to having digital textbooks in some subjects and at some levels as well as disadvantages for digital textbooks in other subjects and at other levels. I'm going to address this again later this week after I've had a chance to get organized and do a little more reading. Check back for updates. In the meantime, track down both Born Digital and The Shallows and add them to your reading list (I should point out that both books are full of far more research topics and fascinating ideas than the few I've presented here). The books may not affect you the way they affected me but the research in both should intrigue you.