A textbook with one main author (Photo by Arallym)

Textbooks usually have one or more names on the front of them. These names represent experts on various subjects. But who are textbook authors?

In general, most authors of textbooks used at institutions of higher education like colleges, universities, technical, and vocational schools are educators themselves. They are professors who have lots of experience in a particular field. In order to have the qualifications to write content for a college textbook, one must know enough about something that he or she can be viewed as an authoritative voice on a particular topic. The reason many of these authors are professors and teach students is because they are effective at connecting with students, especially via written communication found in a textbook. Other professors are better lecturers but don’t have quite as much skill at producing written materials.

But not all academic books have professors as their authors. In the medical field, for instance, doctors contribute to medical textbooks that contain information that is so specific and complex, nobody other than a doctor could actually explain the material.

While novels are often penned by a single writer, textbooks tend to have multiple authors. Even if a book is primarily written by a lead author, there may be contributing writers who provide varying amounts of content to a book. For example, the ninth edition of the popular science textbook Campbell Biology has three authors – Jane B. Reece, Lisa A. Urry, Michael L. Cain and Steven A. Wasserman. Fittingly, lead author Reece taught biology at Middlesex County College and Queensborough Community College. It may not be obvious, but as is the case with this particular book, there are two female and two male authors. Having these different voices often makes a book more effective in terms of its style and presentation. With men and women contributing to the text, readers will enjoy a better balance in the material as it comes from multiple perspectives – and from both genders. There is plenty of research that has shown how males and females think differently.

When shopping for your textbooks for the next semester of classes you’re taking, be sure to take advantage of Textbooks.org and the various features on the website. You can find author information as well so that you know more about who is actually writing the textbooks you are using for your classes. In many cases, textbook authors use books they’ve written for their own classes, which makes perfect sense.