E-book textbooks are being tried in the wrong places

While it’s admirable that Congress just woke up to the spiraling costs of college text books, the first place to make the switch isn’t at the college level, it’s at the elementary level.

The second part of the equation is that if Ohio wants to be a leader in forward thinking education- it’s not by tying in to textbook publishers, but in establishing an open source/creative commons license textbook system for K-12. Fundamental learning requirements change less frequently than college level texts and therefore can be implemented quicker and across a broader audience. The key is providing laptops to all students. See my post on the XO laptop for more on K-6 solutions.

The article on college e-textbooks in today’s is worth a read, however, the options discussed leave out any mention of open source learning solutions. Why are we still buying Encyclopedia Britannica’s when there is a Wikipedia?

Schools, publishers experiment to cut textbook prices
Fingerhut thinks e-books have potential but aren’t the whole solution to the textbook cost problem.

He envisions a mass purchasing program at the state level for negotiating prices on commonly used texts, electronic or printed, to give faculty the option of a cheaper book. As part of the 10-year master plan for the University System of Ohio, Fingerhut is pushing for a single technology infrastructure for linking all the state’s colleges and universities.

Incorporating e-texts into that and using it to leverage buying power “is a market I think could really work,” Fingerhut said. “The result is significant savings for students and schools.”

Eric Fingerhut is Ohio’s “Education Chancellor” and seems to be making serious efforts to push Ohio forward, however, we still haven’t solved the problem of school funding, which was deemed unconstitutional over 14 years ago. With the Dayton Public Schools looking to try to pass a large levy this fall, after Sinclair just barely squeaked out a win in a well funded campaign, the outlook for being able to have college ready kids should be a first priority.

If DPS went to voters with a step-by-step plan on what their money would buy, and why it makes sense, they may have a better chance at passing a levy. One of the first moves would be to implement K-12 laptops, with a move to open source educational resources (e-texts), paperless schools and free citywide wireless for students and residents at minimal cost.

It’s also time to look at recovering tax abatements from corporations that didn’t live up to their end of their economic development deals, but this is something for a future post.

E-texts are a viable alternative to hardbound textbooks, however, the idea of buying them as opposed to sharing in the ownership as is the norm for Open Source software is where the discussion really needs to be focused.

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3 Responses

  1. gene March 10, 2008 / 11:26 am
    First things first. There are 10 times the number of kids K-12 compared to college. Easy now. We know you want to change the world, but it is like this – Make $30K a year before going for the $100K job, if you know what I mean. Kinda like you, you got a very solid 12%, now concentrate on doubling that or tripling that, then you can move forward in the name of progress. Ask Maurice Clarett how it worked out trying to jump to the NFL too soon. It is a great move, a step in the right direction. Just consider the costs.
  2. J.R. Locke March 12, 2008 / 8:30 am
    Yup some colleges and professors have banned or disallowed the use of Wikipedia. http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2007/01/26/wiki

    Text book prices are only part of the problem. There is a lot of concern about who is writing these books and what use they provide. James Loewen went into this. http://www.uvm.edu/~jloewen/

    Text book prices are not too much of a concern for me as a student. First you factor in the cost when you pay tuition. Secondly find out if you really need the book, half of the professors don’t utilize textbooks but are pressured to “require’ them because that is apart of their colleagues income. Lastly the library is your friend. OhioLink rocks!

    E-books I don’t like because I can’t read it at the bar or on the bus!

    But yes the future will have every U.S. high school student with a laptop….just wonder how long it will take.

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