People keep saying that textbooks need to get off paper, online, be interactive, customizable, and easy to change. That ideal vision is a long way off. But it's getting closer.

Last year the math teachers from the Arlington Central School District wrote and published online, for free, an Algebra 1 e-text that is aligned with the New York Integrated Algebra standards. They began using it last year and were happy with their results. Each lesson includes work to complete in class and a 1-page homework. You could, theoretically, print the whole thing out and make copies for your students and use it to drive your entire course. I imagine homeschoolers could make great use of it, too.

Today I learned that one of the architects of the Algebra project, Kirk Weiler, has published a similar e-textbook for Algebra 2. This time, it's the first offering of his company emathinstruction.com. The book is still free, but he plans to charge for things like an answer key.

I have mixed feelings here. I'm very impressed by the amount of work and thought that went into the Algebra 1 book. It's well paced and sequenced and the examples they chose to illustrate the concepts are top-notch. The integration with graphing calculator technology is seamless. I'm sure the Algebra 2 book is similarly impressive though I haven't had time to look through it yet. I had the opportunity to see Kirk speak around a year and a half ago when they were wrapping up the Algebra 1 book and he is a smart, smart, enthusiastic, engaging guy. (I said "smart" twice on purpose. He's really smart.) It's amazing to have free books that hit all the state standards, no more no less. And yet...pdfs? That I can't change? To download and print out? One lesson at a time? On paper? It feels a bit web 1.0. However, within the paper textbook paradigm, I don't think you could do any better.