My academic textbook layout preferences

Hi there, Ollie here. Today’s post is on my academic textbook layout preferences, using an eBook as a case study. The eBook I’ll be referring to is Contemporary Strategy Analysis by Robert M. Grant, the textbook for the Strategy module that I took last term for my Business and Management elective.

The book’s structure is clearly laid out in the contents page and introduction. I really appreciate this as it puts all the material into context and makes it much easier to process. In addition, the introduction provides examples of how strategy in business relates to everyday life, which makes the material that follows more engaging.

At the start of each chapter, two famous quotes are provided that sum up the material covered in a nutshell, which I liked. They’re often quite illustrative, for example:

‘Profits are to business as breathing is to life.’ – Dennis Bakke, Founder and Former CEO, AES CORPORATION

Unlike the textbook, the eBook has the ‘X-ray’ function which gives definitions of key terms, which I found really useful when the terms weren’t explicitly defined in the text. It was a tab I had open constantly as it saves you having to switch back and forth from the glossary.

The textbook made frequent use of bullet points, which I really liked because:

  • They’re usually very concise.
  • They clearly showed which particular concept is being summarised.
  • It meant the text didn’t blur into one giant block.

For example:

In addition, the book made frequent use of examples, which highlighted the application of the content in real-world businesses. For example, the table below shows several profitability measures for some of the world’s largest companies, each of which differ hugely in their ranking of the profitability of these companies.

Ultimately though, what I really liked about the layout of the book was its layout and communication of topics. At every point it is extremely clear about what is going to be covered, with a contents page at the start of each chapter that includes every heading of the chapter. In addition, the topics build on each other, so the ideas are like a logical series of steps. In addition to making the material easy to digest, it also means that the book can be used well as a revision guide, as you can review the topics very efficiently at the contents page at the start of each chapter.