Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Nothing happens when I double click

Students wrestle with unfamiliar technology.



In all seriousness, I think it's time we gave students eReaders instead of paper texts. The texts are obscenely expensive and student backpacks obscenely heavy. It doesn't help that the publishing industry has followed an aggressive bigger-is-better policy regarding textbooks for years.

From the Practical Theory blog. Hat tip to Christa Allen.

14 comments:

Ed said...

Publishing does seem to have the whole thing backwards. Timeless and classic works of fiction are in the public domain, available to every computer or PDA; while 900-page $100 textbooks go obsolete in a few years and have to be revised and reprinted.

Textbooks would be the ideal thing to have in electronic form. College students may spend the equivalent of a Kindle on one semester's textbooks; with the reduced fixed costs from going paperless, that device could pay for itself in two years if not less.

Janet said...

Textbooks are cash cows for publishers, that's why. They deliberately issue new editions, so the old ones can't be passed from student to student.

Ed said...

To be fair, there are fields of study that really benefit from frequently updated texts. At least here in the States and as I recall, they don't usually update more than every third year on average. There's a booming second-hand trade in used textbooks - schools pay a decent price in buying them back, sell them to the next round of students at a discount from list and still make money.

So, textbook writers and publishers could update electronic editions every year, charge a nominal price and make at least as much as they do now. Students would have the latest data every year at an equal or lower price.

The big problem from the publishers perspective is the risk of file sharing, but that exists in any form of e-publishing.

Janet said...

The way around the risk would be easy: sell a license to the school, just like they sell software licenses. If each school buys licenses for its students, the file sharing to non-students would be too minimal a loss to matter.

Publishers so need us in their focus groups. ;o)

Ed said...

Yeah, just include the textbook license fee in the course fees.

Schools could even make e-readers a requirement, the way some universities require notebook PC's. Insure them against loss or damage... it could work.

kimmirich said...

Janet you have a perfect solution here. Those backpacks can really weigh those little ones down. Ebook 'em all!

Melanie Avila said...

Oh, that's funny.

All I keep thinking is that my 15yo niece has gone through two iPods, three cameras, and a couple cell phones. Unless there's a really good insurance policy (or whatever they call that) it could end up being just as expensive.

I like the idea in terms of saving space and making it easier for them to learn, but it could get pricey.

Janet said...

Kim, somebody should tell the publishing industry to listen to me. LOL

Melanie, good point. Even college-age students are hard on the electronics. (I have insider info...)

Also, both the Kindle and Sony Reader are allergic to cold, so that could make it problematic anywhere that has a real winter. Thermal sleeves, perhaps.

Ed said...

So far we've been thinking Kindle, Sony, etc., but perhaps e-books on a regular netbook/notebook would be both more reliable and more versatile. But then that leads to greater tech support issues - viruses, dead drives and the whole megillah. Nothing insurmountable, but it's starting to get more complicated, and expensive.

Janet said...

Yup. But I still think the idea is worth exploring.

Travis Erwin said...

We have one suburban school district that gives every kid a laptop with their books loaded on it, but I really haven't heard how that is working for them.

Janet said...

Serious, Travis? What's the name of the district?

Jared said...

Actually, with the price of paper and printing, publishers are now moving toward leaner volumes. (I work for a textbook publishing company, though in an online division.)

Not that the other points aren't perfectly valid.

Janet said...

Jared, that's good news for students. It has actually become a health issue, as any parent who has tried to pick up their kid's backpack begins to realize.

Any signs of moving to ebook formats that you've noticed?

 

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