E-books and the end of an industry

November 16, 2006

I recently read an article on eSchool News online that notes the idea being explored by area school districts to focus on e-Books rather than traditional hard bound textbooks. This seems to me to be more than a reasonable idea. The primary arguement for this change is the ability for e-Books to maintain accurate information in ways that hard bound books cannot. I recall being in school following the end of the Cold War and in an instant the maps in our Geography books that showed a large pink area named the U.S.S.R. was void. While this information was now incorrect it was not cost effective for the School District to purchase new books. The use of on-line textbooks and websites such as Wikipedia allow for the information teachers present to students to be both up to date and cost effective.

The obvious outcry will come from the textbook publishers. While many publishers have spent the past several years creating on-line supplements to their hard bound books, what response will they have to completely on-line books? After all, textbook publishing is a large industry. This of course begs the question as to who we as educators serve, the students or the economy. If we can transfer literally thousands of dollars from purchasing hard bound textbooks that will soon be outdated to the purchasing of technology that will allow our students to keep up with new information should their be a question as to this action? What response will the publishing companies have to this action?

I am not foolish enough to believe that E-Books will replace hard bound books overnight, although it would be a positive change. As a teacher of World Literature the focus of my class is heavily on ancient text that are available on-line thanks to the Project Gutenberg. While this does not help my students, as most of then already own their textbooks, it does work as an alternative. In the future I could eliminate this cost to my students or transfer these funds to materials such as field trips or other experiences.

In honor of fair disclosure I must admit that this ruins my business plan. Since college I have intended to purchase a book store to finance my retirement. After all what industry allows the holder of all of the assests to purchase back the assests at a greatly reduced cost after a short period of time only to resell these same assets and make an additional profit. Then, after several seasons of reselling, add a new picture or two to claim that the previous edition is outdated and discontinue its use.

This really is a great idea. Oh well, Back to playing the lotto.