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California To Move To Online Textbooks 468

Posted by timothy
from the let's-keep-some-things-written-down-though dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Last year California spent $350m on textbooks so facing a state budget shortfall of $24.3 billion, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has unveiled a plan to save money by phasing out 'antiquated, heavy, expensive textbooks' in favor of internet aids. Schwarzenegger believes internet activities such as Facebook, Twitter and downloading to iPods show that young people are the first to adopt new online technologies and that the internet is the best way to learn in classrooms so from the beginning of the school year in August, math and science students in California's high schools will have access to online texts that have passed an academic standards review. 'It's nonsensical — and expensive — to look to traditional hard-bound books when information today is so readily available in electronic form,' writes Schwarzenegger. 'As the music and newspaper industries will attest, those who adapt quickly to changing consumer and business demands will thrive in our increasingly digital society and worldwide economy. Digital textbooks can help us achieve those goals and ensure that California's students continue to thrive in the global marketplace.'"
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California To Move To Online Textbooks

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  • OLPC? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by i.r.id10t (595143) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @09:08AM (#28264363)

    So are they gonna provide students a method of using these electronic resources, like a OLPC?

    • Re:OLPC? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @09:11AM (#28264397)

      Of course not - teachers will merely go to these online aides and hit the "Print" button.

      What can go wrong?

      • Re:OLPC? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by GreenTech11 (1471589) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @09:29AM (#28264631)
        And the schools will charge the printing costs to the California Government, costing $360 million. Problem solved.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by cayenne8 (626475)
          "And the schools will charge the printing costs to the California Government, costing $360 million. Problem solved."

          Not to mention, every time a schoolchild uses the excuse "the dog ate my netbook"...that'll cost the state another $250 or so.

        • Re:OLPC? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by diskofish (1037768) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @10:18AM (#28265263)
          I agree with you in that it could potentially be a problem, but it wouldn't be hard to do right. Printing doesn't really cost that much. Spending $10 to print and spiralbind a textbook is a lot cheaper than paying $150 for a hardcover version. Need someone to print and do the binding? Hire students over the summer and on breaks and have them do the work.
          • Re:OLPC? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by gnick (1211984) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @10:23AM (#28265353) Homepage

            Agreed - Printing is much cheaper than buying a hard bound version.

            And, for those of you complaining about computers/Internet access, compare the cost of 1 semester's worth of books to the price of a cheap PC and a semester's worth of Internet access. You might be surprised. Heck, PC + Internet + printing/binding may still be significantly than my book costs some semesters - And you only have to buy the PC once (hopefully).

            • Re:OLPC? (Score:4, Interesting)

              by SignalFreq (580297) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @10:53AM (#28265753)

              Agreed - Printing is much cheaper than buying a hard bound version.

              The problem with this argument is that printouts are not likely to be used multiple years in a row. The cost of a hard bound book is distributed over a period of many years (sometimes as much as 15), whereas you'll be reprinting almost every year.

              My take on it is this:

              Average junior high books:
              Language Arts
              Science
              Math
              Social Studies
              Maybe Foreign Language/Art/or Music

              At $100 a book, that's $500 per student initial investment. Expected lifespan, say 7 years? So rounded up to ~$75 per student per year.

              At $250 per netbook, that's half the initial investment. Expected lifespan, say 3-4 years? So rounded up to ~$75 per student per year.

              So their is probably minimal cost savings.

              Primary benefits: Increased technology in the classroom, constantly updated online textbook material, saved some trees
              Drawbacks: Stolen/damaged netbooks, netbook lifespan may be optimistic, school network infrastructure will need upgrades also

              Can anyone think of more pros/cons?

              Given the trend toward technology in the workplace, I think it's a good idea. But I don't think it will save money.

              • From what i've seen, eBooks aren't significantly cheaper than paperbacks and usually not much less than hardbacks.

                Hopefully the californian system is big enough that they can recruit teachers within their own ranks to create their own open set of books, then they can drop the licensing costs which will otherwise surely cripple the system.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by ByOhTek (1181381)

            But, I think this is at the grade school level, not the college level. Which means, a new copy will be printed, at minimum, once a year. At that point, it becomes a question of how many years the books are expected to last, at somewhere between 5 and 10 years average life expectancy of the books, it'll be cheaper to print than buy (I'm taking that $150 estimate as WAY too high for a grade school book - college text books, except in a few 'high end' fields - specialties in some of the harder sciences and me

            • Re:OLPC? (Score:4, Insightful)

              by pluther (647209) <pluther.usa@net> on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @11:31AM (#28266321) Homepage

              It will only increase costs if people print the entire text book every year.

              I can see some students occasionally printing some pages, but why on earth would anyone, let alone everyone, print the whole thing?

              Kids these days are pretty much perfectly happy reading content online. Sure, you get the occasional freak who prefers paper books, but that's hardly the majority. Get an e-reader that allows markup, and you can even take notes directly in the "book". To say nothing of the increased search power in an electronic copy.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Mr_eX9 (800448)
      I know that there are publishers that make their textbooks available in a web-based format, such as Wiley [wiley.com]...but Wiley's textbooks have gotten pretty terrible, at least at college level. Hopefully California will be able to find a better product in this vein.
    • Re:OLPC? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by uncledrax (112438) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @09:16AM (#28264443) Homepage

      Yeap.. I was just going to post the same thing.. we as /. users are definitely on the tech side.. but lets remember not everyone has or can afford Internet access and the things to go with it (like a computer).

      So really one must weight the cost of those dead-trees verses limited access mitigation like enhancing computer labs at schools, offering after-hours lab time, or even like you said, buying inexpensive netbooks for school (which you -know- will end up getting lost/damaged often so will need to be replaced.. plus who is gonna run the tech support for them when they get full of virii (or if they are linux, doing something like "rm -rf /")).

      I'm very much for progress and technological evolution.... but we just got to realize there are still issues with doing it.

      • doing something like "rm -rf /"

        Come on! It was just the one time, I was drunk and curious at the time, I swore I'd never do it again.
      • Re:OLPC? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ILongForDarkness (1134931) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @10:25AM (#28265377)

        but lets remember not everyone has or can afford Internet access and the things to go with it (like a computer)

        Not only that, but if you already have a computer at home you'll probably need a second one. After all, if your kid is tied to the computer for hours a day doing their homework, you no longer have a computer your kid does. So to save the government the cost of providing course materials to the kids, at least part of the cost is being passed off to the parents via the need for computer, internet connectivity etc. Also, teachers like to have kids read out of the book in class, does this mean that every class will need enough computers for everyone? Or are they going to supply the kids with Kindles or something?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by rho (6063)

      More importantly, what about a UPS?

      California: land of the electronic textbook AND rolling blackouts.

  • Go Arnold! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by noundi (1044080) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @09:14AM (#28264437)

    As the music and newspaper industries will attest, those who adapt quickly to changing consumer and business demands will thrive in our increasingly digital society and worldwide economy.

    Is it just me or did anybody else parse this sentence as "Let's not fail in life like the music and newspaper industries and actually use internet for our gain instead of hopelessly fighting it"? Is he giving the music/news industry attitude!? :D

    • by Zerth (26112)

      That's what I'm assuming. To cliche it, that's like asking buggy-whip makers to attest to the success of automobile accessory industry.

  • No its not... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @09:15AM (#28264439)

    'It's nonsensical -- and expensive -- to look to traditional hard-bound books when information today is so readily available in electronic form,'

    Yes, but online textbooks if they don't come with a hard-bound textbook are a bad idea. Already in schools whenever there is an internet outage, virus outbreak, etc. The school basically shuts down in the fact that teachers can't enter in grades, etc. But now the teachers couldn't teach. Then what happens if for some reason these textbooks are not cross platform? What if they restrict access to only Windows machines, or Windows and Mac? What happens whenever a student's computer breaks so they can't do the assignment or if they can only afford low-speed internet or that is all that is offered where they live? What happens if their computer is too old to properly render the site? What happens if the computer lab's hours are inconvenient for said students (for example an after school job where they usually work with their physical textbook during down time)? Take the old saying "my printer broke" and multiply it by a few thousand and thats going to be the result of this program if they do not mandate having a physical textbook.

    • Re:No its not... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by noundi (1044080) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @09:17AM (#28264469)
      It's good to have a backup plan. It's bad to have a shitty backup plan. There are numerous ways you could maintain an electronic backup system without ever touching paper. So no, old ways aren't naturally fallback.
      • Re:No its not... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Darkness404 (1287218) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @09:19AM (#28264489)
        You though assume that the school is going to have control over these books. Likely that is not the case, you would go to a third-party website, login and then choose your book from there. It is likely that the school has no rights to copy/distribute them.
        • Re:No its not... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by noundi (1044080) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @09:26AM (#28264579)
          A school has big consumer power. I bet there are publishers that settle for such backup systems. After all it would strictly be for the sole purpose of maintaining studies for students. If you run into a publisher that has no interest in this then I see no reason why you'd have any interest in doing business with them, even if they wrote the best book about the subject there is. Fact is that book will, in five years time, be as shitty as the other outdated data in the world. Plus by expanding to internet you've already eliminated the dependency of books. Information can be fetched in numerous ways. If you're a publisher this is rather alarming and thus the power shifts to the favour of the consumer. Still these are only hypothetical scenarios but nonetheless I doubt it's that impossible as you describe it.
          • Re:No its not... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Darkness404 (1287218) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @09:37AM (#28264721)

            A school has big consumer power.

            Large schools sure, but these large schools also usually have the infrastructure not to have internet interruptions, etc.

            I bet there are publishers that settle for such backup systems. After all it would strictly be for the sole purpose of maintaining studies for students. If you run into a publisher that has no interest in this then I see no reason why you'd have any interest in doing business with them, even if they wrote the best book about the subject there is. Fact is that book will, in five years time, be as shitty as the other outdated data in the world.

            You assume that there is no textbook monopoly, and that publishers actually care about the students. Honestly the textbook publishers are nothing more than the academic equivalent to the RIAA and MPAA. They just want to make a quick buck and if that means screwing taxpayers, they will do that, if that means screwing students, they have no problem with that, if that means planned obsolescence, they will do that too.

            Plus by expanding to internet you've already eliminated the dependency of books. Information can be fetched in numerous ways. If you're a publisher this is rather alarming and thus the power shifts to the favour of the consumer.

            You have to remember these are organizations with as much sense as the RIAA/MPAA, their response to competition is to raise prices, sue competitors for little to no reason, and decrease quality.

          • Re:No its not... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by jimicus (737525) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @09:58AM (#28265011)

            As someone with real experience of working in a school, please let me say this:

            HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

            No chance.

            I'm not exactly clear what Schwarzenegger is trying to achieve here. Publishers will still charge per-copy, and probably not drastically less for the electronic copy versus the dead tree copy. Even if they do, you've got to budget to buy every child a kindle (or similar device) and budget to replace a certain number of these per year as they wear out or get damaged.

            Unless the plan is to eliminate the concept of books altogether and use teaching material delivered over the school network - no, what about homework?

            OK, deliver the teaching material online?

            You think the publisher is going to charge significantly less for the material if it's delivered online? The cost of textbooks is high largely because they take a lot of time to write, you need a certain number of skills to get a complex subject across effectively and you don't have anything like the economies of scale seen in the latest John Grisham so if you need to pay the author $X, you have fewer customers to spread that $X between.

            None of these things change with using a different distribution model.

            OK, how about skip textbooks altogether and have the teachers put together their own material based on what they can find online? Good luck with that. You'd be doubling the average teachers' workload overnight. Not the way to win friends and influence people, particularly heavily unionised people.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Ogive17 (691899)

              You think the publisher is going to charge significantly less for the material if it's delivered online? The cost of textbooks is high largely because they take a lot of time to write, you need a certain number of skills to get a complex subject across effectively and you don't have anything like the economies of scale seen in the latest John Grisham so if you need to pay the author $X, you have fewer customers to spread that $X between.

              While most of what you said I'd agree with, this part struck a nerve.

            • Re:No its not... (Score:5, Insightful)

              by jvkjvk (102057) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @12:01PM (#28266857)

              You think the publisher is going to charge significantly less for the material if it's delivered online?

              No, but not for the same reasons you seem to think.

              The cost of textbooks is high largely because they take a lot of time to write, you need a certain number of skills to get a complex subject across effectively and you don't have anything like the economies of scale

              Yet for grade school and even high school, we don't need totally rewritten textbooks every year. Or even every 10 years. None of the basics have changed that much. High school science may vall into that category if you have advanced topics classes. Current events classes probably don't need a textbook.

              How come the 29th ed of a math book costs as much as the 28th ed? Surely you aren't suggesting that the cost is high because they took "a lot of time" to rewrite it? Why does the 29th ed still have the same wrong answers to problems in the back?

              I believe that you are papering over the real reason: oligopic profit margins.

              High quality CC texts are the future, and I find it funny that Arnie is still shoveling money to the distribution companies while attempting to be seen as forward thinking and somehow saving money through the magic of technology, when the problem at root is not technological.

              Regards.

          • Outdated? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by SilverJets (131916) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @10:20AM (#28265303) Homepage

            Fact is that book will, in five years time, be as shitty as the other outdated data in the world.

            Outdated in five years? Really? What exactly is being taught in high school these days cutting edge genetics or something?
            Because Shakespeare hasn't changed in nearly 400 years. Classical mechanics, optics, Newton's laws, etc. haven't changed in hundreds of years either. I have a calculus book from the 1920s and it is still as relevant if not better than many calculus textbooks today. Kids should be learning fundamentals in high school. How to do math, how to read critically, how compose essays, etc. Books teaching those will not be outdated in five years or even fifty-five years.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by jbolden (176878)

          California can buy rights to whatever they want. If the state is taking control they are a huge market. This problem is not insolvable.

          • Most states (not sure about California, never leaved there never want to) allow individual school boards to make decisions while the state has the curriculum covered. For example the school might require science to cover basic elements of biology, chemistry, geology and anatomy for 5th grade science. But the actual decisions are made by the school board in which textbooks to buy, how to cover it, and then the teachers usually have a say in the way the material is presented (labs, lectures, essays, etc)
            • Re:No its not... (Score:4, Insightful)

              by jbolden (176878) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @09:56AM (#28264987) Homepage

              Its the same in CA. My point is that if they go to a digital curriculum that's one thing that might have to be centralized. The state might very well want to provide a library of online texts. They might offer some degree of choice to teachers and districts but setting up a full fledged digital document delivery and management system doesn't make sense to do at the district level.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jbolden (176878)

      Spare notebooks. There is no reason to have a 1-1 ratio and not a 1.1-1 ratio. As for things like internet outage, the students can have local data and/or the school can have a redundant internet.

  • Bait and Switch (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ruhri (1480067) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @09:16AM (#28264453)
    OK, here's what's going to happen: initially, the publishers will charge low bulk rates to get everyone to switch over. After that, they'll introduce higher, per-student access fees. Oh, yeah, and don't even think about mixing and matching online books from different publishers. Fees for a single book will be so exorbitant, that the only way you'll be able to afford this is to buy the whole K-12 package. Just ask any university librarian about that business model...
    • Mod parent up (Score:5, Insightful)

      by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @09:29AM (#28264621)
      That is exactly what is going to happen, and the era of reusing textbooks year after year will come to and end. With some subjects, it makes sense to get the most up to date material each year -- geography, politics, etc. -- but with others, it does not -- math, basic physics (not college level QM), etc. Why should schools be forced to pay for new subscriptions every year for material that is not changing?
      • Re:Mod parent up (Score:4, Interesting)

        by foniksonik (573572) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @10:27AM (#28265407) Homepage Journal

        Outdated textbooks are horrible. It's not the facts that are left behind it's the relevance to the current student. A math problem created in the 90s about some topic relevant to a student then will leave a student in the year 2020 wondering how useful math is really...

        Question:
        "There are two cars traveling the same distance of 100 miles, one car gets 10 MPG the other gets 20 MPG. How many gallons of gas will each car need to arrive at their destination?"

        Answer:
        "My car is electric and we just plug it in at night. It goes 300 miles on a charge."

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Bluesman (104513)

          What's relevant is getting the answer right. I'm not a farmer, but I can calculate the most efficient use of a barbed wire fence to cover multiple grazing areas.

          Nobody thinks math is going to be relevant later on, and most of the time it's because it's not directly relevant. Trying to convince kids otherwise is a fool's game, because (like your example showed,) you end up looking more ridiculous than if you just made them memorize the damn multiplication tables.

          What's important is that people understand e

        • Re:Mod parent up (Score:4, Insightful)

          by edalytical (671270) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @11:55AM (#28266739)

          Take the problem sets out of the textbook and put them in a cheap disposable plain paper packet where they belong.

          Math concepts are timeless and belong in a textbook! Problems are cheap and do need frequent updating. Publish them separate. Problem solved!

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ebuck (585470)

        They repay for most of the "static" learning material anyway. The books problem sets and examples are rewritten and rearranged nearly every year. If a school finds that they need 20 extra copies, the copies they need are likely the out-of-date old books. This forces a purchase of the current copies for the entire subject. To ease the pain, the book sellers offer a discount, which is to say they lower the impossibly inflated prices to only exorbitantly inflated prices. Even if the book hit a reasonable

    • Re:Bait and Switch (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DannyO152 (544940) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @09:32AM (#28264657)

      Plus, the publishers will sell, not the books, but the licenses, which means re-purchase every two or three years, on the publishers' schedule and not the district's. No money? No books and no just getting by one more year with last year's texts.

      I'd also worry about the costs of the reading appliances. Some will wear out. Some will be sold black market. Some will have soft drinks spilled on them. I hope the solution isn't that all reading is done strictly in the classroom.

    • Re:Bait and Switch (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @09:47AM (#28264873)

      This is exactly what happened in one of my classes. The professor thought it would be a good idea to switch to an on-line version of the text book, then some smart-ass started asking the sales rep from the publisher hard questions.

      How much does it cost? $95 (the paper one was $100)
      Can I re-sell it at the end of the year? No
      Will I have access to the text after the class has ended? No

      I didn't convince everyone, but about 10% of the other heads in the class were nodding as the publisher's castle of wishes and pretty clouds was blown away. Of course, the professor took me aside and said that I needed to "quit interrupting the class and undermining his authority."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @09:17AM (#28264467)

    The way textbooks are pushing above $100, I'm not surprised. Publishers have made a mint and have tried their best to hamper the second hard market. This is a positive change.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      The way textbooks are pushing above $100, I'm not surprised. Publishers have made a mint and have tried their best to hamper the second hard market. This is a positive change.

      How is this positive? With DRM now they can charge what they want, and all you get is a PDF that expires in a year, that you can't read without lugging a laptop and charger wherever you go.
      Also, has anyone actually tried to read books on a computer? It's pretty painful after a while.

    • I am skeptical (Score:5, Insightful)

      by raddan (519638) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @09:47AM (#28264867)
      As someone who works for a textbook publisher, I can say without a doubt that this issue is not as simple as it seems. It seems like a good idea, a big cost-savings win for the state. But you also need to consider:
      • The longevity of a paper textbook. You can pass this down for at least a decade. A $100 textbook amortized out 10 years essentially becomes a $10 textbook.
      • You can't pass down electronic textbooks, unless the state has some really great dealbrokers. There's just NO WAY any of the publishers I know will allow this-- in fact, they're all drooling at the idea of e-books (while simultaneously dreading it-- go figure) because it eliminates the used book market.
      • Maybe CA negotiates a site-license kind of deal, so that they can redistribute books as they see fit. Also seems like it might work, but in our experience, this is still a huge profit center for the publishers-- look at journals like Nature. IIRC, Nature charges something like $10K annually for their electronic subscription. This is NOT cheaper than the paper copy! But it *is* more flexible, because you don't have to worry about where to store those paper copies, while simultaneously making them available to an entire campus, and that's the reason libraries do it. Not because it's cheaper.
      • If you can't get the rights to pass down books over the years, do you roll your own textbooks? California probably has enough talented people, and worldwide there are probably enough talented people to do this, but at the moment, there isn't a lot of high-quality free information out there. Wikipedia is wonderful, but it is not teaching-quality material. You have to PAY people to produce stuff like that, and it takes time. Having the state commission free works is a great idea, but the publishers will crank up their campaign contributions to stop it, I can assure you.
      • Who buys the e-readers for the students? If you expect everyone to have one, you need to expect the state to buy it. Is this REALLY cheaper? I'd like to see some real figures, because I am extremely doubtful.

      My first impression from this is: Arnold is passing off a pro-industry decision as a pro-California one. I am skeptical.

      • Re:I am skeptical (Score:4, Informative)

        by bcrowell (177657) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @01:43PM (#28268509) Homepage

        [...] at the moment, there isn't a lot of high-quality free information out there. [...] You have to PAY people to produce stuff like that[...]

        See my sig for hundreds of counterexamples.

        [...] and it takes time.

        But authors have already been doing this for years.

        The project is only dealing with free textbooks, which means it is going to have zero participation from traditional textook publishers. (For confirmation that it's only about free books, see the project's web site, http://clrn.org/FDTI/index.cfm [clrn.org], and the Schwarzenegger opinion piece linked to from the slashdot summary.)

  • Do not use computers just as substitute for books, use them to help with visualization not previously possible in books. I.e., animations, interactive materials, etc, etc. I know this is just a first step and too many features at once would delay the project, but it's just something to keep one's mind on.
  • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @09:20AM (#28264503)

    They're not expensive if you use them and amortized over quite a few years. I went to a Catholic elementary school. ALL of our books were hand-me-downs of Public school books and at least 2-3 editions old.

    Unless I haven't been paying attention, Geometry, Calculus, WWII, the Roman Empire, Mitosis, etc hasn't changed much in the last few years. We were also required to have all books covered. They last quite a bit longer if you do this. I know that when I switched to a public school I had the EXACT same history book, it just happened to be 2 editions newer. Other than a few minor editorial changes, I didn't see anything different to my 7th grade mind.

    The problem isn't that books are expensive, it's that they keep buying new ones when the old ones aren't obsolete. Moving online isn't going to help unless they use OSS textbooks. Book publishers are going to love this. Instead of buying a book every year for 120$ they're going to give you a wonderful discount of an online book every year for only 50$.

    Use the books until covers are falling off. Mandate that book publishers MUST keep publishing an edition X years after it is first published. This will eliminate 'prebuys' to try and cover all books that are expected to be lost or damaged. It'll also let a school use the same book for 10, 15 years. A $100 text book over 15 years isn't too expensive.

    Unfortunately 10-15 years is at least one election cycle and everyone will forget what the person they replaced did and it'll be all shiny text books for all "please think of the Children".

    • Unless I haven't been paying attention, Geometry [...] hasn't changed much in the last few years

      A proof of the Kepler conjecture [wikipedia.org] (face-centered cubic is the closest packing of spheres) showed up about a decade ago.

      Calculus

      There have been several different formulations of calculus in terms of different infinitesimal frameworks, in addition to the traditional limits framework.

      WWII

      History gets longer every year: Cold War (Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, Apollo program, breakup and reunification of Germany), Woodstock, Bosnia, WTO, EU, World Trade Center, Afghanistan, Iraq. And we appear to be heading for a Korean War II. And

  • by alegrepublic (83799) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @09:21AM (#28264519)

    Online books are not a very good idea. Books are still better for reading and studying, and the technology for ebooks is still not good enough to mimic all features of real books. Video, on the other hand, is already good enough to have online lectures. I know, because my university does it, and I took some classes where I only went to the classroom to take the tests. I watched all lectures at my own pace in the comfort of my room, and I feel it made no difference whatsoever. Actually, I am sometimes bored in a classroom lecture and wished I could just press the pause button on the teacher, go for a coffe and come back without missing anything. So, I find online lectures just as effective as live lectures but much more convenient, and the interactive aspect can also be taken care of by using email and online forums. So, I think the Governor should re-examine the issue and maybe get rid of schools but keep the books. I am not kidding.

    • by Nosher (574322)

      So, I think the Governor should re-examine the issue and maybe get rid of schools but keep the books. I am not kidding.

      Ah yes, great idea - because isolating an entire generation in their own rooms [ok, more than usual], with no real human contact, will really help to foster sociability and reinforce social cohesion. "Other humans: yes, we've heard of them..."

    • by ocdude (932504) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @09:58AM (#28265013)

      This is actually starting to happen on my campus. Right now we have one set method of providing online courses through a learning management system (moodle) and a pilot of streaming the video and slides or providing downloadable audio podcasts of lectures. We are piloting another system this coming fall that should be more scalable.

      The problem is a bit two-fold. My department has been tasked with managing and supporting all of these applications. We have a skeleton staff as it is, and with the budget cuts it's getting harder to justify the money to hire student assistants (even through financial aid). Right now I've been placed in charge of mapping out our help desk for these applications with three students and myself doing the support work for 1,700 faculty and way too many students (about 30,000? I don't remember the number). College departments are coming to us to put materials online because they cannot afford paper. They have no interest in actually progressing and moving into the 21st century, but are forced to digitize materials due to lack of funds. If it were up to some of these departments, we'd still be using chalk on slates.

      The other part of the problem is actually maintaining the systems. We have three system administrators who have to balance time with supporting the servers running the applications and our internal office networks. These people, unfortunately, also get "borrowed" by whatever department on campus needs to supplement their IT staff (or lack thereof) when doing academically related projects. All of this with a shrinking budget and absurdly high expectations from the University.

      All this talk and movement of materials online is great. It provides more access to students exactly in your situation that would prefer learning at his or her own pace and time. Our campus is a major commuter school and apparently 80% of our students work on top of full loads of classes, with something like 60% of those working full time. Being able to do course materials (for the most part) without coming on to campus is a big plus. However, people also need to realize that doing this also shifts the pain of funding books monetarily onto departments that are already stretched to capacity.

  • by _merlin (160982) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @09:24AM (#28264551) Homepage Journal

    So how do you take the approved textbook into a restricted-text exam? How do you make notes in the margin? Are you supposed to print out relevant parts and bring them to use in class? When you're finished with it, can you re-sell it if you don't need it? What if you want to keep it? Have you bought it, or does the license stay with the school? I'd still rather stick with paper textbooks. It's great to have access to online reference material, but that's not what a textbook is for.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ProfM (91314)

      So how do you take the approved textbook into a restricted-text exam?

      At levels lower than High School, there probably won't be a need for this. Heck, even at the High School level, there probably isn't a need for this.

      How do you make notes in the margin?

      Use Notepad (or better yet, Notepad++)

      Are you supposed to print out relevant parts and bring them to use in class?

      Yes, or have the teacher print out relevant part ...

      When you're finished with it, can you re-sell it if you don't need it?

      Only at the college l

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by tarlss (627609)
      Uhmmmmm...this just in, kids in gradeschool/highschool AREN'T allowed to make notes in the margin, resell or keep their text books, whatsoever. What you're talking about is college text books. And yeah, since you can't do anything like that, an online textbook is indeed, the right solution. As to writing notes in the margin, I've never done that. I don't understand why people do that. Just write it on a piece of paper like everyone else.
  • Though the screens are getting better, many people find it much easier to read off paper than a monitor, including people who've grown up with computers, so I don't think it's a habit thing. And all my textbooks are full of annotations, I can't imagine there's a piece of software that makes it easier than quickly scrawling/drawing in the margin of a book, without me having to go out and acquaint myself with a tablet of some sort.
  • Unfortunately (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @09:26AM (#28264583)
    The information which today is so readily available in digital or electronic form is usually worth exactly what you pay for it. Schools need access to unbiased, objective information that isn't simply being paid for by commercial shills.

    If California wasn't basically broke I might believe this hype (not really), but a better solution might be to set up a cost effective textbook publishing operation. Publishing is one of the areas where you are dependent on heavy fixed plant which has well defined operating costs. Therefore, competition can tend to raise prices because of the costs involved in marketing, sales, administration and (ahem) kickbacks, which are multiplied across every entrant. How about competitive tender to write textbooks, and competitive tender to print them? And, when the concept is proven, competitive tender to make them available on-line?

    • Re:Unfortunately (Score:4, Insightful)

      by krou (1027572) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @09:46AM (#28264851)
      Unbiased? Maybe it's different in the States, but when I left school in South Africa and did some "real world" reading, I quickly realised just how biased my state education actually was. From what I can tell, the same is true here in the UK, albeit a bit more subtle. My history education, just for starters, was a pile of garbage, maintaining the State view of "black people were completely useless until the white men came", while even learning a language like Zulu was skewed: the only things we learnt was crap like "Clean the windows", and "Make me tea", emphasising the attitude of master-servant.
  • by krou (1027572) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @09:27AM (#28264597)

    ... who find is very suspicious that a robot from the future that pretended to be our friend is now pushing through legislation to increase our dependence on machines and technology?

    It's a trap!

  • by iamhigh (1252742) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @09:28AM (#28264615)
    This is a good idea, but it won't save any money, this year at least. Now you have to undergo a major project to source ebooks that are suitable, find the proper distribution method, ensure all schools have the technical capability to allow every student to access these books (at the same time no less - so no sharing computers/internet connections). Teachers might all be teaching out of new books, with new errata, and a new "feel". There are a ton of things to think about.

    I like the idea, but the thought that this will be a money saver in the short term is, well, short sighted.
  • There are some courses, like literature, where the primary textbook is something best read curled up in a chair.

    There are others, such as some sciences, economics, and anything involving current events or current technology, where textbooks are obsolete before they are printed.

    There are still others, like PE, some fine arts, and most vocational training, where traditional textbooks were never an issue.

  • 1 laptop capable of reading etext along with basic word processing running on an ARM processor will cost you about $200 bucks.

    The school, per student, will spend about $30 dollars PER BOOK, PER STUDENT.

    The average high school student has 9 book.

    9 x $30 = $270 dollars

    Each student will cost the school, on average, in print outs, copies, and other non-book related costs and addition $50 a year per student

    $270 + $50 = $320 dollars

    Now factor in electricity costs and I am will to say that "Doing this would probab

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Marcika (1003625)

      From a licensing standpoint then, a digital publisher, with non-existent manufacturing costs, can license a professionally written textbook at a cost of $5 a student rather then $30.

      They can, but will they? Hint: an e-book for the Kindle costs as much or more than the paperback edition. Why? Because they can. (Unless the California state actually employs some people to write public domain textbooks. That would be great. But don't hold your breath.)

      Assuming the laptops are usable for 5 years the cost saving are INSAINE. We are talking slashing at least $200 dollars PER STUDENT PER 5 YEAR PERIOD.

      So that would be $40/year/student out of budget of $10,000/year - savings of 0.4%, even in the wildly optimistic case that all of these e-book readers will need no paid personnel to maintain it and will last 5 years in the hands of 10-year-ol

  • by frank_adrian314159 (469671) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @09:43AM (#28264803) Homepage

    I cann haz siense?

  • by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @09:43AM (#28264809)

    While it sounds good, the logistics of providing access will be a nightmare. Simply expecting kids to have internet access / laptops won't cut it; that's a lawsuit waiting to happen. Books, while not cheap, are much more durable and can be expected to last a lot longer. The value of a 10 year old text as a teaching aid is suspect; but the life cycle costs is less than electronic.

    Publishers now have a reason to update books more rapidly - remove the production costs for hardcover books and they can "outdate" books much faster; plus try to force per student per year licenses on districts.

    Be careful what you wish for, you may get it.

  • by felix71 (49849) <`chris.levesque' `at' `gmail.com'> on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @09:51AM (#28264927) Homepage

    I'm working on my PhD in History, and to help pay the bills I teach both classroom and online history courses. The institution I teach online courses for recently moved from requiring students to purchase the course text to providing them an online version with the class, while offering students the option to purchase custom hard copies. Students can purchase the full, hardback, color version, can select monochrome versions, or get paperback or plastic comb bindings. Sounds great, right?

    Not so much.

    The vendor provides students with a login ID and password for each student to use, which gets them access to the book for six months after the end of the course. The textbook website has integrated learning tools, skills assessments, maps, images, audio and video, etc... along with the text, which is properly paginated to go with my desk copy. Again, this stuff all sounds great. In practice, there are problems.

    Students complain that it takes them double or triple the time to do their reading. Sending them login ID and password was a catastrophe, because they were provided by email, and not all students gave us the correct email address or knew that they had a school-supplied email address. This led the school to just embed a link to the text in our courses, which killed much of the interactivity built into the online text.

    This ignores other problems. Student computer type and age, patch level, apps, skill level, whether they have their own machine, comfort with updating their computer, etc... have a huge effect on whether a student can successfully use an online text. I teach students that range from high school age into their sixties. Most of them are not comfortable troubleshooting problems, communicating problems, or even understanding that they have a problem. There are students whose parents won't let them install Flash or other media players on the family PC.

    Unless Schwarzenegger is talking about providing all students with a Kindle DX (in color) or some similar device with free wireless broadband to access their texts, we're talking about huge administrative burdens, tech support burdens, and even financial burdens for families. The support ecosystem is just just not available for most folks to successfully use an online text for all of their courses.

  • Dual-edged sword (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Celeste R (1002377) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @09:51AM (#28264941)

    I see this as a quick fix, but it's using some strong medicine.

    Putting it into .pdf form (or whatever form they might fancy) will only inhibit the ability to think. You can't write down notes in the margins, even if you can highlight sections of text. This is analogous to freehand drawing vs computer aided drawing (creativity vs productivity). The single exception I can think of is taking pictures out of the .pdf's (if the DRM allows it).

    By suddenly moving away from textbooks, we're moving further away from an old part of the brain, which has aided us in learning ever since humanity learned to tell stories from wall paintings. In general, computers can inhibit the brain processes that aid us in mental growth, mostly because it prevents the mind from subconsciously dwelling on a topic for extended periods. Computerized reading devices (Kindle-type products) would fare much better, but those require an investment that California may not be willing to buck up.

    I'm not saying this can't work, but I am saying that it would work for people who have adapted to it (which most of the system there has not). What I'm also saying is that creativity within the 'new school' students will plummet. For people to adapt best to this change in learning mediums, they should start from a young age. You can expect old dogs to learn new tricks works, but does it work well enough?

    Something I will stress though: there will be people who cotton to this new medium fairly well, and there will be those who won't. I personally would feel that (if I were a child again) I would end up in the camp who wouldn't, mostly because of the subculture that will show up around this policy change. (I went through textbooks very quickly as a child, it wouldn't be in my interests to be "stuck with" the rest of the class simply because of DRM issues)

    There will be good aspects to this though: social life will figure out ways to conform to these electronic resources. Instant messaging is proof of this.

    Say what you will about doodles being good, or doodles being bad, or even a philosophical debate over things like television and such; but not everything that technology's subcultures has brought us has been benign. While this new policy does sound benign to the regular person, it will affect people both positively and negatively. It needs to be respected as a dual-edged sword, instead of a stress-borne whim.

    • by b4dc0d3r (1268512)

      Are you a troll? Or just confused?

      Who writes in the margins? Public schools at least try to minimize that, because the books get reused for several years. You don't want next year's kids reading this year's notes. Actually writing the notes is more of a benefit than reading something someone else wrote last year. How does PDF inhibit the ability to think?

      What's the difference to the brain in reading computer text vs. book text? Are you thinking that students won't be tempted to visit iTunes or chat wh

  • by jimicus (737525) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @10:19AM (#28265279)

    I've never seen a book crash.

    I've never seen a book show a mysterious error message, or ask me to contact my administrator.

    I've never seen a computer I could replace for under £20.

    I've read - hell, I own - books older than the oldest personal computer in history. They still work.

    I've seen plenty of books get wet, but once they're dry they're fine. Even if the pages are a little stiff.

    I've never seen a book come delivered on the understanding I don't pass it on to anyone else once I'm done with it.

    I've never seen a book which would stop working as soon as there was a power cut.

    Nah, this is a silly idea. Technology for its' own sake is seldom the best answer.

  • Worst idea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Corson (746347) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @10:21AM (#28265325)
    A paper textbook has its advantages, for example: it doesn't require power (electricity, that is); it doesn't require an expensive electronic reader; it is not covered by DRM (I can lend it to a friend w/o RIAA et al. coming after me); and can be annotated with a pencil!
  • by sunking2 (521698) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @10:26AM (#28265399)
    So no more little johnny getting his homework done in the car, or when he's stuck at grammas. And now we have to queue up behind his sisters and brothers while they do their homework on the one machine at home. That being said, and I haven't read the article, but the only way this would make any sense is if the state basically buys less books with an option to use an electronic one, somehow encouragine more people each year. You can't deny kids book access, and there are still quite a few people that don't own a computer. Especially in California which has a lot of low income immigrant workers. Education should be the great equalizer, not a divider between the haves and have-nots. This would actually be a great opportunity for the Kindle people to develop a cheap yet sturdy eBook platform. I would imagine that a massive sale like 'every student in california' be a pretty good bargaining to get a good deal. If they could sell it for ~$100/ea its probably well worth it. Or offer some sort of yearly lease or something else.
  • by Billly Gates (198444) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @10:39AM (#28265561) Journal

    She works in the Palm Springs school district and so far the results are mixed and expensive.

    Basically the school dumps down $35,000 of tax payer money into laptops that the students try to steal which break when you drop them. The software is all internet based so that means no filtering. For some reason the I.T. department can't figure out how to firewall all addresses besides the 2 or 3 needed for the programs. She was told it had to do with some activeX controls. This means the kids log into myspace, facebook, and other inappropriate web sites when no one is looking. This includes a few sites where a chick in her class thought it was funny to show a pic of herself topless. My wife didn't report it because she could be fired on spot. She tried banning htem after I told her how to filter them with a hosts file. The kids just google for proxies to get around that. This is a problem because the lawyers feel the teacher is 100% responsible 100% of all the viewing on all 30 laptops.

    Anyway as a math teacher the students really need to practice on paper and its hard to graph functions and slopes on a computer as the students do not understand the concept. What is good about them is that students can finish their work early and then be done and browse the net. With books they have to wait because they can distract other students if they do any other activities.

    My wife kind of likes it because its less work for her. Computer grades everything wtih a submit button. In practice she has had the lkaptop key stolen once or twice and had to put her classroom on lockdown to get them back and the issue of inappropriate websites keep becoming an issue. Schools do not have a budget for a real competent staff who could configure their routers tighter than a virgin's ass with blocking search engines and non educational websites.

  • One way to do it. (Score:3, Informative)

    by spacerog (692065) <<ten.eugorecaps> <ta> <gorecaps>> on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @10:42AM (#28265599) Homepage Journal
    Not all textbook companies are money grubbing thieves and some Professors are starting to wake up to that. This is my textbook for my Business Finance Class I am taking at U Mass Lowell Online [uml.edu]

    Fundementals of Financial management [textbookmedia.com]

    Basically a free book with ads online, a printable PDF version for a small fee ($9.95), a slightly larger fee ($14.95) without the ads and a modest printing cost for the full book ($24.95).

    I got the printed book version. Pretty nice book to. It has no bar code but it does have an ISBN and it is marked "Not for Resale" But at under $30 including shipping I don't really care if I can resell it or not.

    This business model seems to be new in the area of text books but I like it and hope it takes off. - SR

  • by foniksonik (573572) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @10:53AM (#28265743) Homepage Journal

    In grade school you are not expected to carry books home. They give out Readers or Workbooks which are cheaply printed and have just the take home materials in them. The textbooks stay in the class and get pulled out for reference and in-class use.

    There is no good case for Textbooks at the grade school level.

    California needs to negotiate a periodic license fee for a variety of material with optional updates. Purchase interactive white-boards which are simply big LCD displays with fairly cheap touch screen capability (doesn't need to be very accurate). Display lessons and material on these... with handouts as needed for supplementation and home study.

    Grade school kids don't need textbooks at all. They need good teachers who can engage them in the lessons.

    Junior High/Middle schools also do not need Textbooks but do need some form of personal access. Here they should have built-in units in the desks. Scratch resistant good touchscreens and a durable keyboard pad with a very basic OS that can handle accessing media, local network resources and a word processor nothing more. There is no access to the OS itself except the login prompt.

    They don't need full access to the internet (or filtered access). Set up a proxy server that pulls in copies of various websites (wikipedia, discovery channel, etc) on a weekly basis. The teacher gets the same whiteboard but with full access to the internet to pull up current events or additional materials.

    Again, handouts go home. These can be bulk printed to reduce costs each semester with a local printer. Each child still has the same access to learning materials as they've always had based on their families priorities. They can still stay after school to use the media desks, the library (with additional media desks) or ask the teacher questions.

    High School takes Junior High and simply swaps out the media and provides more applications. High School doesn't need anything additional - never has. There are still computer labs for doing things on a computer - these are not computers, they are media desks.

    Savings would include the Textbooks, all test taking materials and any costs related to Scantron type machines, any multi-media devices, a whole host of games and other learning materials that could be applications rather than physical items.

  • by XB-70 (812342) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @11:01AM (#28265875)
    California has a plan to open source the curriculum. I see this as a monitored wiki wherein approvals are met for curriculum revisions. With this in place, whether you want hard or digital copies, the distribution option remains for the user/teacher/school board, not the publisher/rights holder.

    Furthermore, the entire curriculum could be on a CD (for those without internet) and distributed every year.

    The biggest issue here is changing the infrastructure of the delivery of the information. Let's look closely at the lessons of the City of Munich and apply them at the state and school board level. Get rid of proprietary software for most users. Stabilize to a Linux-based platform (LTSP/OLPC?) and be done with huge hardware upgrade costs. Reduce (mostly eliminate) viruses. Give out older machines with OpenOffice and Linux to disadvantaged students. Level the playing field.

    That's how you effect real change, but the reality is that it takes a huge will to do it. Long-term, the savings are permanent and irrefutable.

    Knowledge is good.

  • by bcrowell (177657) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @11:24AM (#28266247) Homepage

    I'm participating in the CLRN Free Digital Textbook Initiative [clrn.org] as the author of a physics book [lightandmatter.com]. When this was discussed on slashdot recently [slashdot.org], I posted skeptically. The same day, I got an email from Brian Bridges, the director of CLRN, saying that he'd seen my slashdot post, and he wanted to reassure me that it really was going to happen. They'd already made a list of potential candidates who they wanted submissions from, and I was on it. I had to go through my books and figure out how they correlated with the list of topics (Word document) [clrn.org] that the state standards say are supposed to be covered in high school physics. Then there was a process where I had to set up an account on their server, fill out some online forms, and upload the Word file showing how my topics correlated with the standards.

    There does seem to be somewhat of a fog of uncertainty surrounding this whole thing. One thing I've noticed is that although Schwarzenegger has named three top-level state education officials who are supposed to carry this out, some of these people are actually his political opponents. In case anyone hasn't noticed, this is all motivated by the hellish California state budget situation. This article [arstechnica.com] has some useful information about California's dysfunctional textbook selection system, and a previous, unsuccessful free-textbook effort called COSTP, where the state tried to produce a history textbook via wikibooks.org [wikibooks.org]. The present effort seems to be doing a pretty good job of eliminating the bureaucratic obstacles; Bridges sent me a detailed email explaining how to fill out all the forms, saying what it was safe to leave blank, etc.

    One thing that I wasn't very clear on before was whether they envisioned this as something that would involve traditional textbook publishers, individual authors who'd put their own stuff on the web, or both. Although I'm sure they don't want to arbitrarily tell certain private entities, like the traditional publishers, that they can't participate, it seems clear to me now that it's aimed at the nontraditional folks like me. Note the word "free" in the name of the initiative [clrn.org]. No traditional publisher is going to give their book away for free in digital form. It's true that the big college and high school textbook publishers are very actively involved in an effort to distribute a lot of their books in digital form, but not for free. From what I've observed at the community college where I teach, the idea seems to be to get students to rent DRM'd textbooks. When the student stops paying the rent, they can no longer use the book. This would have the effect of eliminating the used book market, which the publishers hate with a passion. (That's the reason they bring out new editions so frequently.) So no, I don't think any traditional publishers will participate. The general picture really does seem to be that they're doing this as an alternative to the traditional publishers. Further circumstantial evidence comes from the fact that the state has already tried to do a collaboration with wikibooks. One big question in my mind is whether there will be a giant push-back from the traditional publishers to keep this from happening. Seems like a no-brainer if it really advances to the stage where their market is threatened.

    A lot of the slashdot posts so far have been about the issue of how students will access the books. Since the initiative has "Free" in the name, I don't think we're going to see too many barriers to access here (rentals, DRM, logging in to a web site to access the book, etc.). Taking my own books as

  • by AnotherBlackHat (265897) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @02:01PM (#28268817) Homepage

    Many people have complained that textbooks online are not going to be cheaper, easier, or as friendly as printed books.

    If I had a pdf of a text book that I could legally print out and give to my students, then I could print them myself, and still provide them with books for a fraction of what their current text book costs.
    And I could fix them - if say, someone spilled juice on pages 8-20, I could reprint just those pages, or when someone spots a typo, or just plain wrong information, then I could update just that part.
    Plus those students who can read an electronic version can have a copy for home and leave the printed version in class.
    And they could keep a copy for their entire life, if they ever wanted to refer back to it.

  • by DarkPixel (570153) <stephen@kojoukhine.gmail@com> on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @02:02PM (#28268849)

    Have any of you even read TFA? Of course not this is slashdot... The second link contains more interesting information, so I suggest everyone checks it out. But for the lazy...

     

    Across the state and around the world, well-respected educators have designed customizable texts to meet the unique needs of their students. Federal grants have funded research that is free for public use. And now California has put out an initial call to content developers, asking that they submit high school math and science digital texts for our review. We hope the floodgates are open. We'll ensure the digital texts meet and exceed California's rigorous academic standards, and we'll post the results of our review online as a reference for high school districts to use in time for fall 2009.

    First of all, this is for math(s) and science textbooks only. So don't worry about cuddling up with your English lit stuff on the couch, you can still do that. Second, this is an open call for submissions which will be up for approval. This most likely means that if there are honestly no satisfying submissions, this idea may get scrapped/postponed.

    I think if these were down to earth, non-drm, popular/flexible format based ebooks that are not stuck in online-only mode and are downloadable, then there shouldn't be too many problems. Yeah, I'm curious about many of the infrastructure issues, such as delivery, storage, etc... as well as the business model that will be behind the acquirement of these textbooks. But many of the comments I've read here seemed to be really ignorant of the above paragraph which I think negates half of the concerns I've read about so far.

     

    Last year, the state earmarked $350 million for school books and other instructional materials. Imagine the savings schools could realize by using these high-quality, free resources.

    So reading further, and seeing the above statement sheds some more light on my first quote. It sounds like the state is expecting the submitted learning material to be "donated" for the cause of education. Meaning no publishers and no money involved in acquiring it. So all that's left is storage/delivery/viewing infrastructure. This is looking more promising now (just hinging on the availability of quality free educational content).

     

    However, there are those who ardently defend the status quo, claiming our vision of providing learning materials to students for free would risk a high-quality education. ... That's nonsense. As the music and newspaper industries will attest, those who adapt quickly to changing consumer and business demands will thrive in our increasingly digital society and worldwide economy. Digital textbooks can help us achieve those goals and ensure that California's students continue to thrive in the global marketplace.

    Again, more mention of FREE.

    I don't live in California, but I recognize that the education system in the entire country is in shambles. I'm personally glad to see ideas like these being pushed around, and not only that but actually looking like they'll get implemented and not just talked about. While it's not mentioned explicitly, this sounds to me like it's talking about k-12 education. So all of you who only remember the university environment, please realize that k-12 is different. The textbooks were never yours to begin with. Hell, I'm from Florida and sometimes my school didn't have enough textbooks to give one to each student to take home. So yes, we only used them in class. Homework was improvised... photocopy, worksheets, etc...

One good reason why computers can do more work than people is that they never have to stop and answer the phone.

Working...