Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Terminating textbooks

ArnoldIt looks like I'm not the only one who believes that digital books will find their first mass market penetration in the classroom. Arnold Schwarzenegger intends to give a legislative push to market evolution and obligate California schools to buy eBooks for texts, in an attempt to save the state money.
"It's nonsensical and expensive to look to traditional hard-bound books when information today is so readily available in electronic form," Schwarzenegger wrote. "Especially now, when our school districts are strapped for cash and our state budget deficit is forcing further cuts to classrooms, we must do everything we can to untie educators' hands and free up dollars so that schools can do more with fewer resources."

The devil is in the details, they say, and I'm sure many jurisdictions will be watching to see if the Governator actually saves the state money. If he does, you can be sure that there will be many imitators. It goes to show that hard times tend to stimulate innovation, as the status quo becomes too uncomfortable to maintain.

I am cautiously favourable. I've thought for some time that the textbook industry was abusive of students, both in terms of expense and of weight, and if there's a practical way to change that - and if publishers are farsighted enough to embrace change willingly - this could turn into a win-win situation. If I were a smaller publisher of textbooks, I would be rushing to see if I could jump in ahead of the big boys and gobble up a significant part of the market ahead of them.

What do you think? Is Schwarzenegger visionary or deluded? Will the peripheral costs erase the financial benefits?


Johanna said...

Yikes...I just wrote my own blog on e-books and why I'm not in favor...

But for schools I think it may be a viable option. But I wonder if then kids will become slaves to their computers. What happens to taking your book with you to soccer practice and studying in the car... those type things?

Maybe we should know what grades he proposes to start this with.

Good post.

Janet said...

Those are some of the devilish details, Johanna. The obvious answer is eReaders. But those are costly (although I'm sure California could negotiate a bulk discount) and kids will break them. They should get the makers of the AlphaSmart on this one. Perhaps they could come up with a more durable alternative.

I pictured this starting at the post-secondary level and working its way down, but reality has a way of coming at me from unexpected directions.


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