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Digital Books: Will they make it into k-12 classrooms?

August 16, 2009

Digital Books are becoming increasingly popular. With new technology out such as the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes and Noble iPhone app the major book sellers have jumped on board with digital books.  Sony is also a newcomer to the world of digital book readers with the Sony Touch and Sony Pocket.  Right now e-books are at the point where online music was in 1999.  Authors and book sellers are weighing the pros and cons, copyright is questioned, and the limits of e-books are not yet clearly established.  For now it seems that online music has paved the way for online books.  The precedent has been set.

With all of the new e-book readers out there will schools consider e-textbooks?  Imagine students with one digital reader instead of a book bag full of textbooks.  E-textbooks could be a good thing for K-12 education because new versions of the text would be easier to obtain and less expensive for schools to get their hands on.  Students could have access to the latest versions of the text and links could embedded into the text that would provide students with additional information.  On the other hand a book can take much more abuse than a digital reader.  I can think of a few students right now I would be more than a little cautious handing a digital reader to.  The initial cost of launching an e-book classroom would be a lot more than most schools are willing to spend.  With netbooks out right now and the versatility of the i-pod touch I think the price of e-books would have to come way down before schools give them a a second glance.  Textbook publishers may eventually get on board but I wonder if schools will have to show a interest first.

Are there any K-12 schools out there that are using completely online textbooks or e-textbooks?  What do you think of e-textbooks?  Should schools and publishers jump on board with this?  Or is this an unnecessary expense?

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