Saturday, March 31, 2012

Lightening The Backpack Of Education: E-Readers And E-Textbooks

Anecdotal evidence among educators and the 76 million American students alike shows a resounding "yes" to the question of whether education should transition from traditional textbooks to those in e-reader formats. This technology is also clearly shifting economics of media.  [snip].  Book bags weighted down with heavy textbooks seem costly, cumbersome, antiquated and perhaps even a barrier to learning in the style in which this generation of laptop and smartphone users have come to pioneer. While the e-reader concept seems automatic to many, the logistics have posed some questions. While not all of those answers have been trouble shot, the promise of the technology will likely make investing in an e-reader both personally and in the market a potential win-win.

The New College Try …

College is an ideal environment for e-reader implementation. The independence, technology and responsibility factor lessen the issues concerning adopting this tool educationally at younger ages. Tangible college textbooks can cost upwards of $1100 per academic year according to a recent CollegeBoard study. Unlike K-12 education, textbook costs are footed by the student.

[snip]

Today's K-12 Textbook Market

Publishers, e-readers and educators see the writing on the wall and want to be positioned for the transition to digital textbooks. Unlike some emerging technologies, this revolution will not necessarily increase market demand for the product. The high cost of the academic development of the published product will remain, but the physical production costs of paper, binding and shipping will all but disappear. The fight for market share will be fierce. Publishers will strategize to partner directly with one e-reader exclusively or offer its product across a range of e-readers for download.

Like the college market, the e-reader competitors must establish themselves. With the controlled market of K-12 education, students do not have the choice factor of course materials or formats necessarily. Will the future see e-reader manufactures courting school systems with partnered textbooks offered on only their product?  [snip].

Who Wins, Who Loses in an E-Textbook Atmosphere?

Non-affiliated online textbook stores offering an array of digital and tangible texts may see a boost from the big e-reader manufacturers' competition. Already in the digital game are competitors including bookrenter.com and CourseSmart, launched in 2007, which has 90% of textbooks used in core courses which can be read on a variety of e-readers.

[snip]

The question remains if the K-12 educational system and student will win. Can e-readers save budget restricted school systems much needed money? Averaging over $460 in texts per student per grade-level in a system could be replaced by an e-reader and book rights at a fraction of the cost. But can young students be trusted with expensive technology? Does having this technology pose threats of theft or misuse? Will offering technology in the classroom actually improve education and spark motivation? These are all interesting questions that will be met with many different answers over the coming years.[snip]

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