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Arnold Schwarzenegger Forces California to Go E

California is having a terrible budget crisis.   One of the ways Governor Schwarzenegger is attempting to reduce educational will be to eliminate purchase of print textbooks and require the use of electronic textbooks.

The pilot program will be launched next August.   High school students will be provided an ebook reader to access the math and science textbooks.

Despite the fact that I am a big proponent of digital books, I don’t believe that there are devices out there that adequately meet a student’s need for learning.   There is limited interactivity with the current devices.   At best, you can highlight but annotation is difficult unless you have the very high end Iliad.

The good part of this plan is that by next August, there might be new digital readers including a tablet style netbook with a transreflective screen that mimics eink but also has the functionality of a computer.    The bad part of this plan is that we just don’t know what the future holds for digital devices.

(Thanks Susanna Kearsley for the link)

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

23 Comments

  1. Meljean
    Jun 11, 2009 @ 09:01:23

    There is limited interactivity with the current devices. At best, you can highlight but annotation is difficult unless you have the very high end Iliad.

    They can’t highlight/annotate a print book, either — at least I would never have been allowed to in my high school. Marking up a textbook was a big no-no.

  2. Lorelie
    Jun 11, 2009 @ 09:02:14

    Just what I was about to say – writing in the books resulted in charges. And very, very few students were organized enough to go the post-it route.

  3. Nadia
    Jun 11, 2009 @ 09:02:24

    The good part of this plan is that by next August, there might be new digital readers including a tablet style netbook with a transreflective screen that mimics eink but also has the functionality of a computer. The bad part of this plan is that we just don't know what the future holds for digital devices.

    The bad part is how CA plans to pay for the devices, which are not going to be cheap, and track them, since students should be able to take their textbooks home to study, etc. CA is virtually bankrupt, and unlike our federal government, it cannot print money.

  4. Nadia
    Jun 11, 2009 @ 09:04:15

    @Meljean: You don’t have to pay if you gently underlined with a pencil & erased before turning in your textbooks. At least my school allowed that…

  5. Cathy
    Jun 11, 2009 @ 09:51:22

    On the surface, this seems like a great idea. Once I started thinking about it, though, there seem to be a lot of issues. How much of a discount are textbook companies offering on the e-versions? Enough to offset the cost of the reader for every student? What about insurance or replacement costs? Will the students be allowed to take the reader home for homework? Not to mention that by giving these kids an $X00, aren’t they and the school becoming prime targets for theft?

    I really like this idea, but I worry that it’ll be a logistical nightmare for the people actually doing the work, and could end up becoming even more expensive than the paper books.

  6. RKB
    Jun 11, 2009 @ 10:07:33

    E-readers are *very* fragile. Kids don’t understand how easily they are going to break them. I’ve already killed two of my e-readers and I’ve been as gentle as possible with them.

  7. Gina
    Jun 11, 2009 @ 10:54:51

    The cost of e-readers is cheaper than the cost of text books?

  8. Kalen Hughes
    Jun 11, 2009 @ 10:56:50

    The good part of this plan is that by next August, there might be new digital readers including a tablet style netbook with a transreflective screen that mimics eink but also has the functionality of a computer. The bad part of this plan is that we just don't know what the future holds for digital devices.

    I’d like to know how my bankrupt state is planning on paying for the readers? Are we getting a grant from Bill Gates? Additionally, I would be surprised if the publishers granted open use of purchased books (why would they?). We’d have to pay a fee per pupil, per year, and that would add up quickly and likely outstrip the cost of printed books in a few short years.

  9. Jude
    Jun 11, 2009 @ 12:04:21

    Digital devices ARE the future. In decades to come, students will be taught that books USED to be made of paper. They’ll mock our wastefulness and the destruction of so many trees. LOL ;-)

  10. ReacherFan
    Jun 11, 2009 @ 14:17:14

    I admit to having been one of the lazy students – blessed as I was with a good memory – but even so, I could not work with ebooks when studying. I do technical writing and occasional expert witness work that requires I have many pages to reference at one time. I still ask lawyers to provide print copies for me to read. I can work with data in entirely e-format, but not exclusively text.

    I’m doing a fairly basic report today and I have 5 different documents open in 3 different programs, but I’m not referencing any CFR, MIL or other standards or hunting down specific technical information. Sorry, I still find I need paper for certain kinds of work.

  11. JulieLeto
    Jun 11, 2009 @ 16:42:28

    I went to private school. Since we bought our books, we could mark them up however we wanted. Used books were then resold to students in the incoming class–unless the teachers changed the textbooks, or updated it, which often happened. Same in college.

    For my daughter (who will be homeschooled next year, but up until now, was in public school), we made copies of the pages she was studying so she could highlight and annotate. Then once she’d taken the test, we recycled those pages. I wouldn’t know how to study without being able to underline, highlight or annotate. I wouldn’t know how to teach someone to study without that. So while I totally think that ebooks should be the way of the future in that it will make textbooks more updateable and therefore, relevant, I don’t think the devices are quite there yet.

  12. JulieLeto
    Jun 11, 2009 @ 16:43:41

    Gina, I had textbooks in college–twenty years ago–that were equal in cost to the Kindle I own NOW. Most math and science texts were in the hundreds of dollars a piece. I can’t imagine what they are in this day and age.

  13. DS
    Jun 11, 2009 @ 18:16:18

    I was wondering how much the publishers were charging for text books because I know about how much someone was paying for college texts about five years ago and they tended to be about $200 in some classes.

    California is one of the states whose purchase of textbooks is courted hot and heavy by publishers so this will be interesting to watch.

    As for kids being careless with their electronics— don’t forget that many children now have been raised on technology– computers at home, cell phones at an early age, and all sorts of things like MP3 players. I remember giving my nephew his first computer at age 3 and a leap pad 8 years ago. His parents gave him a cell phone a few years back and a laptop last year. I don’t think he has managed to break anything– which is more than I could say about my brother at that age.

  14. Cassia
    Jun 11, 2009 @ 18:33:08

    As an ex-Californian student from K-18, I applaud this movement. When I was in school (I’m 23 now), the weight of textbooks used to double students over. And lockers weren’t much help. As for the issue of kids killing e-book readers, I really highly doubt it. As DS pointed out, kids nowadays have been raised with technology and when I see my 5 year old niece navigate Yahoo’s kid’s site with a mouse as big as her hand, I am always surprised.

  15. Miki
    Jun 11, 2009 @ 18:55:18

    @RKB: That’s what I was thinking!

    A friend I work with told me she was offered the choice to purchase a print or digital book for a college class she had coming up. The e-version was 40% less than the print version. I assume that’s because she was only “renting” it – it expired after 6 months and because she couldn’t resell it or loan it within the the 6 months she had access to it.

    I can’t imagine how that would work for a public school system that is likely to re-use its books for years before they switch editions.

    On the other hand, I’m surprised at the number of people who say they couldn’t learn without being able to highlight or notate. I made notes – if necessary – on a separate notepad. And write in my books?! Blasphemy!

  16. Miki
    Jun 11, 2009 @ 18:58:09

    Ooh, just found this over at Mobileread – seems on topic. I especially liked the one about not all topics being equally e-friendly.

  17. Jeannie Ruesch
    Jun 11, 2009 @ 19:10:02

    Even though I see this as a wonderful option SOMEDAY, I just don’t believe e-readers are near ready for such a step. I love my Kindle, but it’s not a rough-and-tumble item. What happens when a kid breaks it, because they will? And then breaks the next one? And the next?

    How many are accounted for each student in the budget? Will parents be responsible for paying for a new e-reader if their child breaks it? What if they want to opt out of their child having one, because they can’t afford it when it breaks or gets crushed or gets soda on it? Will they be allowed to have the traditional books instead? Will they have to buy them?

    This isn’t a step that can be taken lightly or because it’s a quick fix to a HUGE state problem. I agree in decades to come, this will be how kids are raised, with ereaders in their pockets instead of a heavy backpack full of texts. But it’s not there yet.

  18. Lorraine
    Jun 11, 2009 @ 20:47:42

    I’ll believe it when I see it. Like @Nadia said

    The bad part is how CA plans to pay for the devices, which are not going to be cheap, and track them, since students should be able to take their textbooks home to study, etc. CA is virtually bankrupt, and unlike our federal government, it cannot print money

    Schwarzenegger is threatening to shut down the State government in July *whatever that means* since we’re basically bankrupt. We have zero dollars in this state for anything, let alone ereaders for all the millions of kids in school. Aside from that, all I see in blogland is that the price of ebooks is comparable to the price of paper books. Are we to believe that text publishers are going to be nice and sacrifice profits so that California can buy etexts at a discount? I don’t think so.

    Anyway, I don’t see how the State can mandate something like this. In my kid’s middle school each child is given two textbooks, one to keep at school and the second to keep at home, just so they don’t have to hurt their backs schlepping them back and forth. While I appreciate my kids not being burdened by the extra weight, it’s ridiculous when you consider that kids in the Los Angeles inner city schools frequently don’t even have one text per child. Go figure.

  19. Essa
    Jun 11, 2009 @ 21:19:51

    Florida has several high schools that work completely off of computers for their “textbooks.” My daughter, who is homeschooled, does her schoolwork through a public virtual school that has tens of thousands of students. Every bit of her work is done online. She loves it, I love it. It’s 100% better than a textbook (imagine the textbook changing as knowledge grows as easy as changing the URL on one of their resource sites). I can see something like that working for California, but I can’t imagine using an e-reader for textbooks (though my daughter does her required novel reading on one :)

  20. De
    Jun 11, 2009 @ 22:50:07

    Direct link to his article about going e.
    Digital textbooks can save money, improve learning By Arnold Schwarzenegger

    And while he didn’t say it there, here’s an Ars Technica article from last month about CA going open source for the high school math and science books.
    “Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has an ambitious plan to reduce the cost of education in California. He intends for the state to develop digital open source textbooks for high school math and science classes. The books will be available for free and will be used at public schools across the state.”

  21. CHH
    Jun 12, 2009 @ 10:43:10

    If California’s plan is simply to have textbooks available on computers which can be accessed from home computers, it leaves out the kids who don’t have Internet access or computers at home.

  22. Nadia
    Jun 12, 2009 @ 11:50:53

    @Lorraine:

    …it's ridiculous when you consider that kids in the Los Angeles inner city schools frequently don't even have one text per child.

    I’ve attended one of LA inner city schools. I was horrified at the general condition, the lack of motivation (on the students’ part as well as some really bad teachers), etc.

    Thankfully I was able to transfer to another school w/in a month.

    I do not envy CA right now.

  23. RKB
    Jun 12, 2009 @ 13:10:08

    Until you get your own e-book reader, you really have *no* idea how easy it is to break one. The screens are so easily broken it’s laughable. Computers, cell phones and other electronics are very tough compared to e-book readers.

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