Q: The text covers all areas and ideas of the subject appropriately and provides an effective index and/or glossary
This text broadly matches the information found in a standard introductory biology (non-majors) textbook. Most topics are covered and those that are covered are done well. There are very simple learning objectives before each section, and each section also includes a few study questions for students (and the answers are included as well). Throughout the material, videos are included. For the most part, the videos are fairly dry and mostly show a lecturer speaking, sometimes with an accompanying photo. These videos are still intelligible played at a quicker speed which allows students who are already at a high level of understanding to progress more quickly.
While the information broadly matches other, published textbooks, what is noticeably different is the lack of sophisticated illustrations and figures. While much of the time the text is adequate to convey the meaning, figures can add another layer of understanding and can also make more complicated material seem more palatable.
Another significant and important difference from many introductory textbooks is the omission of any information regarding evolution by natural selection. Given the central importance of this topic to both biology as a whole, and our understanding of many of the topics touched on in the text, the lack here is somewhat troubling. The text acknowledges that this edition has removed the chapters of a previous version that cover evolution.
Comprehensiveness Rating: 4 out of 5
Q: Content is accurate, error-free and unbiased
I did not find any errors in the text. Many of the diagrams and figures were rudimentary and lacked detail; in some cases the detail missing from the figure caused the meaning of the figure to be somewhat obscured (e.g., Fig 2.6 in which hydrogen bonds are depicted but partial charges are not). Overall the explanations are clear and to the point. The content is pared-down and little extraneous detail is provided, with the exception of the sections giving more information about specific biology-related jobs or topics of interest.
Content Accuracy Rating: 5 out of 5
Q: Content is up-to-date, but not in a way that will quickly make the text obsolete within a short period of time. The text is written and/or arranged in such a way that necessary updates will be relatively easy and straightforward to implement
The portion of the text which is most likely to suffer due to the passage of time are the sections dealing with lab techniques and genomics. On the whole, these sections are fairly comprehensive and currently mostly up to date. A new section explaining CRISPR-Cas9 and the potential impacts of this technology should be included as well as the topics already present. This should be relatively easy to implement.
Relevance Rating: 5 out of 5
Q: The text is written in lucid, accessible prose, and provides adequate context for any jargon/technical terminology used
The explanations are clear and concise. Some sections are denser but these usually are covering topics that are intrinsically complicated. The text in these cases make a good learning support; the instructor will need to provide a pathway for the student to follow.
Clarity Rating: 4 out of 5
Q: The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework
Yes, the text is internally consistent. An important point to note is that two sets of information regarding animal structure and function are available. The first set is provided in Chapters 11 to 13 and covers the animal anatomy and physiology at a more surface level. Chapters 14-24 cover the same systems in much greater depth. The instructor can choose which is more appropriate.
Consistency Rating: 5 out of 5
Q: The text is easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections that can be assigned at different points within the course (i.e., enormous blocks of text without subheadings should be avoided). The text should not be overly self-referential, and should be easily reorganized and realigned with various subunits of a course without presenting much disruption to the reader.
Yes, it would be easy to assign reading of some sections and not others. There are few large blocks of text .
Modularity Rating: 4 out of 5
Q: The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion
The order of presentation of topics is very similar to that in other introdcutory textbooks and this is logical. Many chapters have an 'Evolution in Action' section which jars somewhat with the absence of any explanation about evolution as a whole.
Organization Rating: 5 out of 5
Q: The text is free of significant interface issues, including navigation problems, distortion of images/charts, and any other display features that may distract or confuse the reader
Some of the figures appear somewhat blurred in the .pdf version of the textbook (downloaded) (e.g., 2.5, 2.9, 2.13). They are still legible but the effect is not professional. Figures in other chapters appear fine.
Interface Rating: 5 out of 5
Q: The text contains no grammatical errors
I have found no grammatical or spelling errors.
Grammar Rating: 5 out of 5
Q: The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. It should make use of examples that are inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds
It is good to see the inclusion of female scientists in the book. I would like to highlight that as this is a Canadian edition, there should be a concerted effort to consult with members of indigenous groups to generate some content. A major focus of the current curriculum in Canadian schools is to engage with indigenous ways of knowing etc. The book should take this on and include some content.
Cultural Relevance Rating: 3 out of 5
Q: Are there any other comments you would like to make about this book, for example, its appropriateness in a Canadian context or specific updates you think need to be made?
I recommend this book as part of an instructor's teaching toolkit. The book explains in a clear way many of the concepts covered in a typical introductory biology class. While the book has some drawbacks (no coverage of evolution, not many figures, figures are in some cases not very useful), these are counteracted by the fact that the book is clear, to the point, and most importantly, free to students. While the instructor is needed to place some of the concepts in context, the book would be a valuable resource to support learning.