Tuesday, April 27, 2010

eTextbooks or Paper: The Battle Turns into a War

The iPad has started a revolution. U Cincinnati and OhioLINK Research Digital Textbook Adoption

Despite the lower price and other benefits of eTextbooks, they have never been as popular in the past as educators would have imagined. Not surprising. Most of the eTextbooks, including the ones displayed on Kindel, are just fuzzy text. Not an innovative and diverse way of learning. It is like comparing apples and apples.

Fuzzy text. Think about it. When we get on an electronic media, we expect to have someone thing interactive, visually appealing, diverse, and text arranged in layers so that we are brought into the text, not bamboozled by text.

The textbook companies, playing big business people, buying and selling companies, on credit, have big businessed themselves right out of the market. Companies that once had comfortable profits are trying to pay off huge loans. There will be no bail out for them. The results are fewer staff people, fewer innovative projects, cutting manufacturing and transportation costs, and trying to increase sales and prices (good luck with that!)

The companies have even been so silly in their business practices, they have become incestuous, buying and selling themselves (or is this cannibalistic). They have been in ugly bidding wars selling books against their own sister companies.

The war that is ensuing has been escalated to critical as the high cost of education has affected everyone in this economy so cuts are ahead. In defense of the textbook companies, they are taking a major hit with colleges as they try and get the cuts to come from somewhere else.

In the argument about the high cost of textbooks, few understand that the bookstores and the colleges are also taking a profit. Colleges are attacking the textbook publishers and blaming them for the high cost of education trying to divert the blame for the high cost of education.

Now educators are doing studies to determine what students want. However, the iPad changes the playing field. Studies showing student preferences will always be bad if it is a dry, static textbook on paper or on line. We gotta throw all past studies out.

Lets watch the iPad and the next generation of digital textbook readers that put the activity back into learning.

Frankly though, i am betting on the eTextbooks that can be accessed by whatever electronic device on the internet.

With a digital reader, the students have to still have to purchase a laptop. With an eTextbook that can be accessed by the Internet and not downloaded, students only need one machine. Colleges won't have to decide on one textbook reader over another.

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