Education

Taking Stock of Digital Textbooks

By Katie Ash — May 11, 2009 1 min read

Digital textbooks are back in the news, with the release of a new, larger-screened Kindle by Amazon.com, which could be suitable for digital textbooks, according to this Associated Press article. But there are still obstacles that stand in the way of e-textbooks taking off—such as a lack of awareness about them—which this article from The Chronicle of Higher Education does a good job of laying out.

Most college students—more than 80 percent, according to a survey by Educause—already own portable machines that can display electronic textbooks: They're called laptops. And more than half of all major textbooks are already offered in electronic form for download to those laptops. Yet so far sales of electronic textbooks are tiny, despite efforts by college bookstores to make the option to buy digital versions clearer by advertising e-books next to printed ones on their shelves.

Despite the concerns mentioned above, K-12 schools in Texas may soon at least have the option of assigning digital textbooks to their students, according to this AP article. And in California, in an effort to pinch pennies in the cash-strapped state, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has asked Secretary of Education Glen Thomas to make free, open-source, digital textbooks available to students in high school math and science courses by the beginning of the next school year, in fall 2009.

Top-level education officials in the state will apparently spend their summers coming up with a list of those open-source, high school math and science texts that are aligned to state standards. If it works out, it will be a big first step towards including open-source schoolbooks in the classroom. Read more about open-source textbooks in K-12 classrooms in this Ed Week article. And click here to read my colleague Sean Cavanagh’s take on this proposal on the Curriculum Matters blog.

Photo credit: Mark Lennihan/AP

A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.