From Notebooks to Netbooks
Allow me to linger just a little longer on the subject of digital books. At Tuesday's Lineup (HERE) we were talking about public libraries going digital and allowing patrons to check-out books digitally from home on their e-readers. That naturally leads to the topic of digital textbooks and why aren't they being used in schools and colleges?
They have been around for a while, but slow to be adopted by the institutions of learning. For the last few years this has been a focus of college students who are faced with having to purchase their texts, after a lifetime of using the school's books and returning them at the end of each semester. But the key word there is "purchase" because in the American university industry, textbooks are a high-profit money maker, especially for the professors who write their own textbooks. When you see that a required text costs as much as $135 for an ordinary printed volume, you can smell something.
Not only is the college bookstore making a tidy profit, but the professor is padding his pockets by requiring you to buy his dull book, even though you have already paid a hefty fee for the class tuition. In previous years you could sell your used textbook back to the store for 50% of the cover price after the conclusion of the semester, then the store would sell the "used" textbooks for 25% off to the incoming class – a nice 50% markup on their investment. The professors got irritated with this because they weren't getting a cut of the used-book action. So they would go back to their manuscript and change a few words in a paragraph in each chapter and re-publish the book as a Revised Edition and require the new class to use the Revised copy even though the hapless student couldn't tell the difference. The Textbook Racket.
But in the public school level, e-books are rolling in and probably here to stay. When it's the schools doing the purchasing and not the individuals, there is a lot more clout behind the checkbook and if a public school system wants to go digital, then they will. And, they are. But they are not being issued as downloads like your personal e-book library is. This is understandable because not only do you have to protect the publisher's rights, but you have to make sure that the students are "on the same page" (ugh! … ed.) and using the same authorized copy. So the books are being pre-loaded onto small netbook computers that are probably purchased in bulk for about $30 apiece and these are handed out in class. Not only does the netbook have the required texts for the particular class loaded on them, but they also have additional aids for the course including links to websites and videos that are related to the subject.
The school systems are still feeling their way around with the concept, but you learn by doing and they are properly easing into the digital textbook world. For a good description of how this is taking place and being used in a school system now, read THIS ARTICLE from the Washington Post published on September 21 where the writer goes to a high school and sees how it's working.
And I am always wondering how soon will it be when e-tablets will be used for the daily equipment check in the fire and EMS stations? Until then, we have to keep on doing it the same way it was done 100 years ago, like so many other FD operations, so let's get started. I'm going to make some good, old-fashioned coffee now. See you back in the day room.
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