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Textbooks Take It on the Lam

There’s been a lot of buzz for some time about eReaders and eBooks for kids in classrooms, so for McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to get involved with digital, and with Apple in particular, was a no brainer. I’m certain there were many teachers saying, “It’s about time.” And, no one will feel sorry for those outdated texts napping in warehouses, or in school storerooms next to filmstrip projectors.

Don’t get me wrong; I love books. Some of my best friends are books. And believe me,  eBooks, or iTextbooks will never replace The Good Book. I can’t imagine a court scene, where this is said, “Put your right hand on the iPad.” And what would happen if the judge threw the eBook at someone? I just think that in some cases books will be books, and won’t go the way of phrases like, “Take it on the lam Lefty!”

Here’s what’s good about this. Publishers finally get it. That’s a bit unfair; I think they’ve gotten it for a long time, but this is a tipping point. It has to do with a lot of things—portable tech devices are wirelessly-better—and getting better by the day. These eBooks are not like the flying cars we all should be flying today—sorry, something I picked up from a school magazine in the 50s. Digital textbooks are for real.

There’s a lot of good for publishers here. Traditional textbooks are expensive, and while they can be resold, they can’t be updated. I think for a long time publishers have been looking at it this way, because they had to: If a textbook costs $50 (probably more) new, and is resold again for $25—maybe the sale is to 2 students—and finally left to collect dust on a shelf or tag sale. But, think of a digital textbook, possibly sold for $15 or less—downloaded, and owned by every student. And beyond the Common Core digital texts, it would be easier to modify to suit individual state specific requirements–which can be a bit weird. It would be doable with digital textbooks. No one will be crying about that business model. And, on the education side, books that can be quickly updated are a good thing. Sorry kids, forget what I said about nine planets, and oh, that used to be a country, but today it’s not.

If you visit Apple’s i-Tunes U online, or on an Apple device, you’ll get the idea. There’s some free university-level courses you can try out. They can be pretty heavy, with audio and video, but if you can’t get into Yale, it’s not bad having a Yale professor come to you. The free ones can be a little dated, but you’ll get the idea of the possibilities. Dated material can’t happen for kids or brain surgeons. I’m certain publishers are scrambling to figure out how to reorganize an army of digital educators, authors, and copy editors for immediate updates.

I still need to wrap my head around having a really expensive device, like an iPad on a daily school bus commute, but I guess that will take some rethinking, too. Maybe this is an opening for less expensive devices to shine. I’d hate to say it, but the loss of a $70 device is a lot easier to take  than a $400 one sliding under the bus seats on a snowy winter’s day, or being flung like a Frisbee.

I didn’t say it, yet, but I will—lighter book bags or no book bags at all… Hmmmm, that could be trouble for the book bag industry. and the demand to, “Cover your books by tomorrow!” will probably never be heard, paper bags will be extinct like  the phrase, “Everything’s Jake!” Most likely replaced by “Remember to recharge your batteries!”

Written by

34-year veteran educator, ed tech author, and education marketplace reporter.

Filed under: Featured, K12 · Tags: , , , ,

3 Responses to "Textbooks Take It on the Lam"

  1. Lisa D. says:

    Thanks, Ken.

    It’s certainly going to be controversial but what in education is NOT!

    All my best,


  2. Andrea M. says:

    Digital textbooks are more interactive, portable, updated continuously, and facilitate differentiation in the classrooms. They are so much more than our old elementary textbooks used to be. Students can conduct virtual science experiments, learn through multimedia rather than just linear text, and have access to the information around the clock from anywhere with Internet access.

    I think you’re absolutely right. The timing is perfect for digital textbooks! Now, which ones would you recommend?


  3. Mark M says:

    I’m looking at using low-end e-readers/tablets in school as personal learning devices for all students. I can see the day when they replace all text books and students will access resources via the school’s VLE or pre-loaded on their device. Soon, the basic equipment for school will be pen, pencil, ruler and PLD…hopefully