We know about the obvious advantages of Open Textbooks, reflected in the 5Rs (as defined by David Wiley), the ability to: Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix, Redistribute. We tend to think of this on the individual scale, rights granted to an individual professor, or student.
But beyond this critical set of freedoms for authors, faculty, and students, Open (Networked) Textbooks offer something equally exciting, the possibility of building a truly open learning system. A system where the information itself (the content in the books) becomes a "public utility" upon which we can experiment and build new and better ways of interacting with information, new and better ways of helping students learn and understand.
Does this mean educational AI chatbots that interact with students while they read? Does it mean direct messaging with a prof or a TA? Does it mean a Slack channel connected to your text, with all the students from your class in it? Or all the students in the world? Does it mean new and better analytics and monitoring of students progress?
Thinking about Open (Networked) Textbooks means we must start to think about building radically new learning tools and services on top of the "raw information" -- we need to think about why, and how. And just as importantly, why not, and how not.
Let's put on our see-the-future goggles and imagine what world we want once every course in the world has an Open Textbooks available in every language. What happens next?