Textbooks aren’t what they used to be

Textbooks are boring, says Jeremy Short a professor of management at Texas Tech. He’s written a comic book called Atlas Black: Managing to Succeed for undergraduates and MBA students, reports Inside Higher Ed.

Atlas is a bit of a slacker, but eventually graduates from college, learns to run a business, and becomes a fledgling entrepreneur. The graphic novel introduces concepts from principles of management, organizational behavior, strategic management, and entrepreneurship while illustrating Atlas’ quest to make money, get over a breakup, and open the No Cover Cafe, where college students can listen to free music and buy moderately priced pizza.

To convey some of the important concepts, Atlas talks to his girlfriend about how he is doing better in school and applying a “balanced scorecard” (a strategic performance-management tool) to his life, and later in the book explores the options necessary for hiring employees and suppliers, and developing the best business model for his restaurant. When Atlas’s friend has trouble understanding motivation, Atlas takes him to his baseball coach, who uses straightforward examples from running a baseball team to illustrate complex ideas about motivation — a key concept in business.

Eighty-six percent of students that used the book said it “compares favorably” to other management textbooks they’ve had, Short said.

He added that the most rewarding part of the process teaching with Atlas Black is having students wonder what happens in the story when the book ends. “The idea of a student asking what comes next in a textbook is really just unfathomable,” he said.

Atlas Black: Management Guru is the sequel.

This isn’t the first time comic books have been used to communicate educational concepts. Professors at the Duke Law School created a comic book to illustrate issues in copyright law, and the Federal Reserve published a series of comic books targeted at a younger audience to explain financial and economic issues. But creating an entire textbook is a unique project, Short said.

Inkling, a San Francisco start-up that’s adapting textbooks for iPads, has released an iPad textbook app and announced its received venture funding.

Unlike printed textbooks, Inkling’s app will include features such as multimedia and allow classmates to share notes.

“Inkling uses multitouch interactivity to create engaging learning experiences,” said Inkling founder and CEO Matt MacInnis, a former Apple employee. “Rather than replicating a book on a screen, Inkling puts 3-D objects, video, quizzes and even social interaction” on the iPad app.

According to its website, Inkling will offer introductory textbooks in marketing, biology, economics and psychology — and add more titles “soon and regularly.”

Textbook prices start at $2.99 for individual chapters and $69.99 for full publications.

About Joanne


  1. Management is one of those rare topics that CAN be adapted to a graphic novel format. I was reading a friend’s management college textbook and was dumbfounded at the droning language and complete lack of useful information. I couldn’t even summarize the pages I’d read.

    Even better than comic books, just assign some of the books written by top CEOs and maybe that One-Minute Manager short, short book.

  2. georgelarson says:

    Does anyone recall Professor EmCSquared’s Calculus Primer?



    Cartoon History of the Universe
    Volumes 1 – 7
    From the Big Bang
    to Alexander the Great

    The Cartoon Guide to Chemistry



  3. Soapbox0916 says:

    I own The Manga Guide to Databases that I bought for fun just because I thought it would be interesting, but it could be a textbook. They are a range of manga guides for many subjects such as calculus, electricity, physics, and molecular biology from the same company. http://www.edumanga.me

  4. Independent George says:

    There are professors of ‘Management’? I’m trying very hard not to laugh right now…

  5. georgelarson says:

    I understand University Business Schools are very profitable and the management professors make good money consulting. These schools have large enrollments and low overhead.

    What amazes me are the professors who teach leadership when they only have academic credentials as opposed to having demonstrated it by actually leading an organization.