Going Digital: Say Goodbye to Print Textbooks

Today CNN covered how the Obama administration is calling for schools across the country to adopt e-readers. The vision is that devices like iPads, Kindles, and Nooks will replace textbooks. The article notes that currently our country spends $7 billion on textbooks every year. E-readers offer the opportunity to quickly and conveniently access updated content rather than having to continuously buy new hardcover print editions year after year.

iPads in the classroom: "Max Mashal, a sixth grader, used his iPad at Pinnacle Peak Elementary School in Scottsdale, Ariz." Credit: Joshua Lott for the New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/05/education/05tablets.html?_r=1

One example of how  technology and digital textbooks can benefit students can be seen in the college science textbook called “Principles of Biology” created by the Nature Publishing Group, a TriplePoint client. The digital-only book lets students buy permanent access to the material, so they can get the most updated science information over a lifetime. It also allows content to become more interactive as it is accessed via a laptop, tablet or smartphone. Anne Eisenberg at New York Times recently covered how “Principles of Biology” can make science “leap from the page.” Additionally, Apple’s recent announcement about creating a Textbooks section on the iBookstore is also raising questions about the fate of the traditional textbook.

While CNN raises concerns that e-readers may not survive “lockers, bus and bike rides,” that is certainly not reason enough to stop implementing technology that can improve the way students learn. That would be like saying we shouldn’t use calculators in case kids drop them, mobile phones in case they are lost, or computers in case students spills chocolate milk on them. It seems we are headed toward an era of digital education where we may put the old print textbooks to rest sooner rather than later. As Fast Company’s Anya points out, the “days of the four-pound printed textbook…are numbered.”