It’s the economics.
At least, I assume that’s the case.
Remember when you were in high school and got your textbooks? You might have had hardback ones, and had to sign your name on a little card or pocket inside the front cover. You might have had trade (large size) paperbacks…with the corners bent, most likely.
In either case, the odds were that there was writing in it, or pages missing, that kind of thing.
Paper textbooks decay and are expensive. Often very expensive. Why?
- They have lots of pictures and charts, and are therefore relatively expensive to produce
- They are relatively large themselves (again, more expensive to produce)
- There may be many contributors…who all have to be paid
- They have a limited shelf life…they go out of date, not just because information changes, but because regulations change
- They have a limited market: different states may have different requirements
- Certainly in the case of college textbooks, they get resold…often many times. The money from those resales does not go to the publisher
Increasingly, therefore, I think were going to see many high schools do what Clearwater High School in Florida (and some other schools) has done: issue Kindles to the students instead.
At first, that may not seem like it makes sense. The lowest priced Kindle is $139 currently. Some of the Kindles will get lost, broken, or stolen.
Obviously, it’s a big initial investment. In the case of Clearwater, they gave out about 2100 devices (the student body number I found online was 2090).
That’s $291,900…unless they get some kind of bulk or educational discount.
That doesn’t count bookkeeping costs and such.
Let’s break that down a bit to more manageable numbers.
We’ll use this as an example:
In hardback, that one is $125.00.
The Kindle edition is $15.37 with 4 simultaneous device licenses.
So, let’s say you have four classes of 30 kids each for 120 needing the same book at the same time.
Let’s say each student needs…5 books like that for different subjects.
That’s a savings of $72,694.50 on the Kindle editions.
120 Kindles at $139=$16,680
Even if all the Kindles have to be replaced (which seems unlikely) this saves the school $56,014.50.
Now, I’ve looked at 120 students. We’ll extrapolate that out for 2100…that’s a savings of $980,253.75
That’s with every Kindle being replaced every year. Woo-hoo! Tax break!
Of course, there are a lot of factors. I went with a hardback textbook…I could have used a paperback. However, I also could have gone with Romeo and Juliet…which you can get for free in e-book form.
The figures get even better if each of, say, four English classes rotates which book is being read. Let’s go with Lord of the Flies (I’m not linking because it is from Penguin, which blocks text-to-speech access).
Thirty students at a time need it. It has six simultaneous device licenses. You buy 5 at $8.99: $44.95.
On the other hand, even if they are turning them in when their class is done with them, you need 30 paper copies (better make it 35 to cover lost/stolen/damaged). Amazon has the school binding one for $15.64…$547.40 total.
That’s only one of the advantages (albeit, probably the most attractive one).
Here’s another: a teacher could make notes available to all of those students. Before the book is distributed, the teacher makes notes in the e-book copy (“What is the character feeling here?”). The notes are synchronized to the Kindles (and the mbp files is backed up separately). Synchronization is obviously going to be turned off on the account (and annotation back up should be turned off on the devices) when the students are reading the books.
Are there negatives? Sure. If the Kindles remain registered (so students can use Wikipedia…not necessarily desirable), students can access the internet (there may be guidelines about that). Purchasing is easily controlled…you do not have to have a credit card/debit card associated with the account (see this earlier post), and you don’t need to apply a gift certificate/card to it. No money, no purchase.
Could students put inappropriate material on the Kindle? Sure, using a USB cable. The Kindles can be cleaned when returned, though.
Another issue was raised in the Kindle community about the accessibility of the devices. This came about because of the problem when Kindle DXs were piloted in some colleges last year. A student with a vision disability (and other entities) brought legal action (which was settled), because (allegedly) sighted students got an unfair advantage from the Kindles.
That may seem odd: isn’t a device with text-to-speech (TTS) a big advantage for those with print disabilities? Yes, it is, although they may have had alternative versions. That’s not always true with novels and such, but it would be true with academic books, generally.
The problem was that the Kindle, since it couldn’t be navigated by a person with a sight disability, couldn’t be used. Also, there was the issue of sighted students being able to the dictionary and Wikipedia and make notes, and those sight disabilities not being able to do that.
The audible menus (new to the K3) solve the accessibility issue for the menus. I’ve used them…they work reasonably well. However, I can’t tell what I’m typing when I write a note…it doesn’t read out loud key presses. If I pause the TTS, I can’t make a note. If use Wikipedia, it can’t read me the page.
I think that alternatives to the Kindle will have to be provided for students with print disabilities…ones that are the equivalent. iPads and laptops, for example, can read everything out loud to you, I believe (although I’m not sure about websites). The Kindle books could be placed on those devices using free Kindle apps…so the licensing advantages still stand. It might seem funny that the disabled students get iPads when other students get Kindles, but it might be the solution.
All in all, this seems like something a lot of schools will need to do in the future.
This was the first article I read:
I have to say, I was astonished by the negativity in some of the comments on the article. People were concerned about theft…but it seemed to border on stereotyping (at a minimum).
I did look up the high school online..at a school comparison site:
It doesn’t seem to be an especially disadvantaged school for Florida. The eligibility for free lunch is 23%…but the Florida average is 26%. The median income for the zip code is $40,305…versus Florida’s $40,307.
So, what do you think…good idea, bad idea? Hm…it does give a different meaning to the old rhyme, though:
No more pencils
No more books
No more teacher’s dirty looks