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South Korean Textbooks to Go Digital by 2015 123

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-in-one-place dept.
South Korea plans to spend $2.4 billion buying tablets for students and digitizing materials in an effort to go completely digital in the classroom by 2015. From the article: "This move also re-ignites the age-old debate about whether or not students learn better from screens or printed material. Equally important, there's the issue of whether or not devices with smaller form factors are as effective as current textbooks, which tend to have significantly more area on each page."
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South Korean Textbooks to Go Digital by 2015

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  • digital rights (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Right, that removes the only real reason to keep buying new textbooks every year - digital copies last in pristine condition even when handled by schoolkids (no guarantee about the reader devices though). But who wants to bet the textbook companies will saddle them with restrictive licenses and digital rights management so that the schools will actually be unable to reuse the digital textbook licenses they bought the previous year?

    • by bloodhawk (813939)
      In all fairness they would be morons if they didn't do that, book companies are there to make money just like any other business, if you take away the profit from publishing text books (which for many there isn't much profit in many of them to start with) then why would they continue to do it?
      • Re:digital rights (Score:4, Insightful)

        by jpapon (1877296) on Monday July 04, 2011 @06:21AM (#36651106) Journal
        I find it hard to believe that "there isn't much profit in many of them to start with", when I have to pay $90 - $125 for a textbook. If there isn't much profit it's because they're using antiquated printing processes that require large runs to be profitable. Even given that, at $125, I have no pity for you if you can't turn a hefty profit.
        • Re:digital rights (Score:5, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 04, 2011 @06:35AM (#36651142)

          I am an expat who lives in South Korea. I have never seen a K-12 textbook which costs more than 8,000 won (~$8 USD). In fact, I have about five middle school textbooks on my shelf from the current year, and they only cost between 1,000 and 3,000 won each. Oddly, the "international" textbooks (read: American textbooks simply labeled as "Not for sale in the US.") actually cost about half of what they would back home.

          Sadly, you get outside of textbooks, and the prices for English books are pretty costly.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            . Oddly, the "international" textbooks (read: American textbooks simply labeled as "Not for sale in the US.") actually cost about half of what they would back home.

            No, it's not odd, The pharmaceutical companies do the same thing. US based businesses think we're an upwardly mobile society that can continually afford to be gouged by them.

            In meantime, as our standard of living continues to go down as our wages come more in line with the rest of the World, foreign businesses who know how to sell a decent product for much less are going to come into this country and eat their lunches.

            It'll happen. Then those US companies are going to cry and scream at Congress about "unfa

            • Amazingly, these American 'global' companies do not realize that most of the none American nations WILL be protecting their own industry and are going to resort to more of that as the global economy dies. Basically, these idiots are transferring tech so quickly and will lose all of their precious abilities here. The good news for America is that these companies will die with us.
          • by mercnet (691993)
            All my engineering and aerospace books for school say "Not for Sale in US", do bookstores really think I am going to drop $1000?
        • by microcars (708223)
          One of the reasons that new textbooks cost so much is that there is a huge secondary market (used textbooks) that removes the original publisher from the revenue stream.
          Every one of my classes requires a textbook, but the instructor will accept the use of previous versions.
          Out of 24 students in one science class, I would say 8 of them have brand new books, another 8 have used books, the rest have used previous versions of the book and there are always a couple of people that borrowed a copy and used a pho
          • by tuppe666 (904118)

            I am tired of these things are expensive because of a second hand market. What a load of crap! I bought several second hand games last week, because first hand was simply too expensive. Would I have loved new games in shiny packets in pristine condition. The resale value is PART of the cost of an many items, but models for items with artificial scarcity books/movies/games/music price most consumers out of the market, simply for the maximum profits made from the few privileged. Its disgusting.

      • In all fairness they would be morons if they didn't do that, book companies are there to make money just like any other business, if you take away the profit from publishing text books (which for many there isn't much profit in many of them to start with) then why would they continue to do it?

        Arguably, unless their lobbyists are good, the publishers would be very nervy to try too much: If the state has just announced a bold plan to move all K-12 students to a single e-text platform, guess what; the state is now by far your largest customer and the only one large enough to matter. Publishers, on the other hand...

        K-12 textbooks are arduous to write; but effectively interchangeable. A number of different publishers would be capable of offering something suitable. If they don't like your price,

        • by Anonymous Coward

          A 1-year (or perhaps 1-student) license need not be a bad thing. For public schools at least, having a nice steady annual cost works rather well as their funding source also annual (taxes). If publisher A offered an eText for $10/student/year vs Publisher B offering a similar work for lifetime $60-80/copy I would think publisher A would still win most districts over. I think the life cycle is somewhere around 4-6 years for K-12 textbooks today. Even if the material in the books is unchanged, methods of

        • Re:digital rights (Score:4, Insightful)

          by EdIII (1114411) on Monday July 04, 2011 @06:30PM (#36656068)

          They could easily find that purchasing the rights, as a work for hire, would be more cost-effective than purchasing copies.

          I have this really crazy fucking idea. Totally nuts. But hear me out....

          How about you "crowd source" with a couple dozen university doctorates, psychologists, and those that study effective learning techniques... and I dunnnnoooo... maybe give something back to the world ?

          I'm sure that every engineer, scientist, and academic here realizes that their entire world is built on the efforts of others right? So why not contribute back to the environment that gave you the luxuries that you have? Why not become part of the foundation for the next generation of people that will push us ever farther forwards?

          Screw the publishers and the book writers. Nothing in life says that they should be guarnteed a job and huge piles of cash. Or that when presented with an environmentally friendly and effective tool with the new technology we created (which was created most likely taking for granted all the hard work before it) we would not use it to its full potential?

          I have nothing against people making money. However, if anything should follow the open source model, it is educational textbooks. If I really were smart enough and well respected enough in my field I would write a book if I thought it would help other people that do what I do. However, I doubt that I could create a book half as good as the programming books I have read anyways.

          There really are some things that we should just all altruistically create for the Public Domain.

      • by jrminter (1123885)
        The school districts and universities compensate faculty and a fraction of the revenue they pay for text books would pay for the compensation required to write the books and a support staff to help with figures. Books are revised more frequently than needed to get the revenue from a new edition rather than because of the need for new material at the level of most courses that have textbooks. The taxpayers (for school districts) and college students pay for much they don't need because of this racket. That s
      • My publisher claims that about 3,000 potential sales is enough to make a textbook profitable, factoring in the cost of proofreading, layout, technical review, as well as printing and distribution. If you're buying a license for every school child in South Korea, and there are no printing costs, and you're handling the distribution yourself, then I think they'd happily sell it to you with no DRM and a country wide perpetual license. That said, there's no real reason for the publisher to be involved at all.
      • who said that book companies will be the ones selling the text? I suspect that books companies are going to go the same way as buggy whip companies went.
    • Re:digital rights (Score:5, Insightful)

      by muuh-gnu (894733) on Monday July 04, 2011 @06:19AM (#36651102)

      > digital copies last in pristine condition even when handled by schoolkids

      This problem could have been solved by handing out pdfs, which they can print out over and over again. They could make notes on them and still have the originals. They wouldnt have to carry the whole book around all the time, they could just take a few pages they need. They wouldnt have to take as care of them as of books, becouse they could always be reprinted when destroyed or lost.

      Why does the education system rely on overpriced commercial literature at all? Why doesnt it work to hire 1-2 experts per subject and let them write for hire definitive textbooks for the particular subject which then could be used without any royalties for years and decades by thousands of students? Why are they forced to buy new books over and over when everybody has a printer at home?

      • by meburke (736645)

        Yeah, I think that e-books and digital PDF's are a good thing. I can see the day when a quality text on a technical subject will be priced at $3 -$4 and still make enough to cover editing and graphics, and still provide a good profit for the author. Everyone wins.

        Of course, I want my e-reader to allow me to highlight topical sentences, add notes to my text, create combination outlines and notes, fill in Toulmin tables, create repositories of practice exercises, do intelligent review planning and scoring, mo

      • Vested interests and juicy juicy profit of course. I hope South Korea works with ebooks rather than tablets, but for me the most interesting part will be how they roll out the distribution network for the data.

      • by jpapon (1877296)

        Why does the education system rely on overpriced commercial literature at all? Why doesnt it work to hire 1-2 experts per subject and let them write for hire definitive textbooks for the particular subject which then could be used without any royalties for years and decades by thousands of students?

        I like the idea and all, but if they could do this, they probably would. The good textbook writers wouldn't sign a deal to write a textbook for you unless they got some royalties though. Then if you want printed copies, you need to get a publisher to print them for you... so you're back where you started anyways.

        It might be feasible once everything is electronic, but it would basically just be a way of cutting out the publisher, since good authors are still going to want royalties.

        • The good textbook writers wouldn't sign a deal to write a textbook for you unless they got some royalties though.

          We wouldn't? I'd happily sign over all of the rights to a book that I'd written in exchange for an up-front payment. If I think a book will make $n over 5 years, and you offer me $n up front to release it under a permissive license, I'd be an idiot not to accept.

          • by jpapon (1877296)
            You're right of course, but it seems unlikely that anyone would offer you $n up front.
            • $n is probably quite a lot less than they'd pay the publisher for the rights to a country-wide license for a book...
      • Re:digital rights (Score:4, Interesting)

        by VortexCortex (1117377) <VortexCortexNO@S ... t-retrograde.com> on Monday July 04, 2011 @07:36AM (#36651334)

        This problem could have been solved by handing out pdfs, which they can print out over and over again.

        You are aware that printer ink is one of the most expensive commodities on Earth, right?

        However, You can do all those beneficial things WITHOUT INK or toner, if you just had a tablet PC... Make notes, "File -> Save As..."

        As for printing...WHY? Just call up the document from the wireless server if it's not in your course data package on your device for some reason.

        I had to buy all of my textbooks in Highshcool because of a car accident. The cost was over $500 -- That was one semester / one year, and get this -- now that I've long sense graduated: I can't refer to the books.

        However, when I taught myself to code in 1992 (age 12) I saved the example code that I had entered and some references and guides I downloaded from Compuserve and other BBSs -- Oh, look, it's on my local NAS, and my S3 storage, and I can pull it right up on my desktop, my netbook, my thinkpad, or my OLPC, from anywhere in the world, at any time (provided Internet access is available, or I've had the forethought to download it to the internal storage).

        You know, for a race that's actually got some amazing technology that we only dreamed of in the recent past, we sure are reluctant to use it...

        • by SharpFang (651121)

          Toner, on the other hand, is pretty cheap. And if you intend to print a book, you're much better off picking some semi-bulk service like a print shop than trying to use your home printer.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Why does the education system rely on overpriced commercial literature at all?

        Because it is one "system". We get mandates handed down From On High. Teachers must teach to [unfunded] NCLB mandates, which means they need a text which is suitable for this purpose. In higher education it is common for instructors to make agreements to use each other's textbooks to create a market for each. In essence, it's all the usual bullshit greed.

      • Google it... there are lots of free open text books.

        One example: http://www.collegeopentextbooks.org/ [collegeopentextbooks.org]

      • by TomHeal (2261306)

        Why does the education system rely on overpriced commercial literature at all?

        Good question. Perhaps we could start a Wikipedia style website for people to contribute educational material. This information could be organised textbook style and printed cheaply and easily for use in schools.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Korean public schools don't reuse textbooks. They are purchased new every year by the students. They're ridiculously cheap, too. They get filled with study notes over the course of the year. (I'm an expat teacher.)

      • Korean public schools don't reuse textbooks. They are purchased new every year by the students. They're ridiculously cheap, too. They get filled with study notes over the course of the year. (I'm an expat teacher.)

        That's interesting. What size are they. When I was in school, my text books where hundreds, approaching a thousand, pages.

    • Re:digital rights (Score:4, Interesting)

      by rolfwind (528248) on Monday July 04, 2011 @08:00AM (#36651414)

      I think asian countries are a bit different. At least in Japan, they don't heft heavy tomes of text books around, but use 6-8 week pamphlet that have their lessons/content for that period of time in that subject. I'm under the impression that those are owned by the school system.

      If wikibooks or similiar took off, no reason that can't happen in schools. After all, there is no reason to really update algebra/calc books all that much. It was pretty much the same today as 100 years ago.

      http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Main_Page [wikibooks.org]

    • by microcars (708223)
      it is already being done.
      I'm in college right now and looked up what my options were for digital versions of my textbooks.
      A Microbiology textbook that cost $180 in hardcover was $84 "digital" but it was not a PDF. It was originally a PDF but converted to FLASH and only readable on a computer AND while connected to the internet.
      The license was only good for 180 days as well.
      There was an "option" to download a few chapters at a time to read offline, but the license to read those files expired after a wee
      • I think this is the flaw. Digital copies of books generally don't out weight the cost of owning a book and being able to sell it. Reselling a used book means you almost break even, selling a new one, you can get half your cost back. Digital Renting uses a poor model.
    • This is why California created the Open Source Textbook Project several years ago.
      http://www.opensourcetext.org/ [opensourcetext.org]

  • Oh Yeah? (Score:5, Funny)

    by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Monday July 04, 2011 @05:49AM (#36651012)

    South Korean Textbooks to Go Digital by 2015

    Oh yeah? Well in North Korea our textbooks will go digital by 2014! We'd do it even faster except we can't get enough parts to build our nkPads. Damn you Apple!

    North Korea still the best Korea!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      North Korea already has gone digital, at least in their universities. This was on a Google Tech Talk from a US Nuclear Energy Expert who has visited North Korea many times to view demonstrations (and receive political messages through backchannels to the US).

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIdRSl7Dc88.

      E-books are really cheap when you don't have to license them. A lot cheaper than a large library of dead trees. It's a no-brainer for a not-as-poor-as-you-think country outside the reach of international copyri

  • by symes (835608)

    I hope this catches on more generally - I am currently sick of the amount of paper that academia churns through. Books, photocopies, papers, it is endless. It kind of feels like we are moving in the right direction...

    • by jpapon (1877296)
      While Academia does churn through a lot of paper, in my experience they are also very good at recycling it.

      Not to mention that while it may seem like a lot, I bet business goes through significantly more. This is because the majority of pages printed/used in academia are actually read by someone (putting a limit on the number of pages used, since we can only read/write so fast). In business vast quantities of pages are printed that are read by someone once, then printed and used over and over again withou

    • by FhnuZoag (875558)
      Personally, I detest this idea. Tablets are good for some things, sure, but you can't beat the leaf-ability and easy replaceability of books. My experiences with ebooks for academic work have really not worked out well.
      • E-book readers really need to catch up in these regards.

        Some of my pet peaves include writing in the margins, including doodles, quickly earmarking pages, and being able to grab text with proper reference for use in quoting.

        That last one is really annoying -- if I'm reading a book to be used in a paper, and I want to quote a paragraph, I often have to completely retype the paragraph instead of copy and pasting it because they don't want people to copy the whole book.

        Here's a clue: you can limit copy and pas

    • by rdnetto (955205)

      I wouldn't be so eager if I were you...

      Benefits:
      -green
      -lighter
      -dynamic content

      Disadvantages:
      -harder (impossible?) to annotate
      -can't resell
      -DRM - probably only available in a proprietary format for a fixed period of time
      -more costly for students & schools (ongoing costs: hardware support + power supply)

  • In my opinion, the debate is not screens vs paper its distracting environments vs non-distracting. If you try to do serious work/learning and you've got apps open for email,im,facebook etc. you're going to be interrupted every few minutes and each interruption breaks your concentration which is difficult and time consuming to regain later. I even close all distractions when I try to concentrate at work (the most important is email). So, it's possible to learn using a computer you just have to close everythi
    • by satuon (1822492)
      Yes, and Linux has a strength here - you can remove the browser from the OS. One employer who moved to Linux had productivity go up after he removed the browser from the computers of clerks who didn't need to surf the web (but who might have needed to use network printers and email).
      • If they don't need access to the Internet, then their computers should be blocked by the firewall, not by the lack of a browser. You don't need access outside the local network for email or network printers, you just need to be able to connect to the print and mail servers.
    • by couchslug (175151)

      tl;dr (runs)

  • New excuse (Score:4, Funny)

    by Errol backfiring (1280012) on Monday July 04, 2011 @06:31AM (#36651128) Journal
    I did not do my homework because my batteries ran out.
    • by dolmen.fr (583400)

      I did not do my homework because my tablet has been stolen.

      • Re:New excuse (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Rogerborg (306625) on Monday July 04, 2011 @07:37AM (#36651342) Homepage
        I did not do my homework because the publisher revoked a book that I foolishly thought that I owned.
      • I did not do my homework because the dog ate my tablet.

      • by gsslay (807818)

        I did not do my homework because stuffing my tablet into my school bag, kicking it along the corridor, striking my fellow students with it and having it hurled from the school bus window, broke it.

        This never happened with previous books.

        I think it also has a virus.

  • This is why you get pedagogical experiments being carried out in a wholesale manner, rather than innovation in education being driven by diversity and competition.
    • by Rogerborg (306625)
      Big words, small view. Diversity and competition are doing just fine in the international market, rather than inside isolated states.
  • by edcs (1931354)
    I used an ebook version of my history text book last year, and it worked relatively well. Other than a few formatting issues, I found it pretty easy to highlight things and make notes on my kindle. The only problem was that since it didn't retain the page numbers of the print edition it was next to impossible to reference in essays (in the end I had to use Google Books find the location of quotes in the print edition), but if they lean into this properly then they'll probably be more open to adapting the cu
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      The only problem was that since it didn't retain the page numbers of the print edition it was next to impossible to reference in essays

      It's impossible to omit the page number and provide a chapter number? Are you using an app to structure your essays, too?

    • i find ebooks to be much more cumbersome than printed ones. i prefer ebooks as reference material, of course. but actually learning about a new subject is (for me) much easier with proper books i can hold, fold, throw around, and write on with a pencil. imo, the best way would be to somehow make printed books searchable.

      • i prefer ebooks as reference material, of course. but actually learning about a new subject is (for me) much easier with proper books i can hold, fold, throw around, and write on with a pencil. /p>

        I bet your librarian hates you.

  • ... or having millions of netbooks or pads requiring constant charging compared to a book which requires - none.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      The environmental cost of that fancy, glossy paper is enormous, and textbooks are reprinted every few years either for political reasons or simply to keep the pocketbooks of the publishers padded.

      • by Viol8 (599362)

        The cost of mining the metals and recovering the oil to build a netbook will be orders of magnitude more enviromentally damaging than simply pulping wood to make a book. Not forgetting than most paper comes from managed woodland which absorbs CO2 as it grows anyway and is replanted.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Most timber for paper is clear-cut, leading to soil loss among other problems. This can be done a finite number of times before the only thing you can grow is pines. You can only do it with pines so long before you end up with soil that will only sustain a small handful of plants that can handle highly acidic conditions... or on bare rock, because of the soil loss.

    • by rolfwind (528248)

      If the students would have the same devices anyhow, probably negligible. If it's e-ink, also negligible. If neither, then it will come at a cost.

      But imagine if all newspapers/magazines/etc were now delivered digitally. What a savings in gas, ink, and paper! Plus recycling is energy intensive too.

      But yeah, I agree, this should be quantified.

      • by Viol8 (599362)

        If the devices are intended to be used for something like 10 years then you might have a point. But lets be honest - they'll be "out of date" in 3 or 4 years and will be replaced.

  • Textbooks (and books in general) evolved to the current set of form factors. We can think of them as some local maxima of the convenience vs effectiveness vs weight (vs other factors) tradeoff function. A digital reader changes something (weight, batteries, readability of the screen vs paper, etc) but the size of the page is still important especially if you have lots of pictures to show, which is common in textbooks. It will be a challenge for everybody to match in a few years (even counting the past) what
    • by rubycodez (864176)
      I'm sure the same arguments have been made about e-mail vs. snail mail, or reading a news site rather than a news paper. Sorry gramps, but printed matter for most applications including textbooks is a waste of trees. Electronic textbooks can certainly not only handle scribbled annotations, but links to further materials or youtube lectures, student's photographs or recordings, and a dozen other things that would make a much richer learning experience than a mere pulped dead tree.
      • by pmontra (738736)
        I read books almost only on my phone (4“display) and that made me appreciate both the convenience of linking and constant availability of my library and the occasional discomfort of not being able to see enough content. E-readers are larger than my phone but some paper books are larger than any e-reader. We'll see what happens. PS: I'm another ruby coder:-)
  • I always thought digitalizing my schoolwork would make me more productive, since I spend tons of time on my laptop anyway, it removes the necessity to lug around large bags filled with books, and it seems like it could be made cheaper.

    However, I doubt I could focus on schoolwork when a million more exciting and enticing uses for the machine are available. I already have a class where I have to complete homework over the Internet, and its certainly not any easier than on paper. If anything, I'm just more tem

  • "This move also re-ignites the age-old debate about whether or not students learn better from screens or printed material"

    I think Aristotle first raised this question; several thousand years later Descartes weighed in too, but he was a luddite.

  • There are more important issues, like do the pupils need to buy all iPads now? Do they need to buy e-book-reader from only one vendor? Can they lend the books to classmates? Do they need to buy the e-Books but can't give them later to their brothers/sisters/cousins?

    If S-Korea would do it right they would get the books as DRM free PDF or Pub files, nationwide, with the explicit right to copy the books and share it for free with other (future) S-Korean pupils, where the publishers are only paid for updates on

  • The question is not only about children, green... etc. Korea is one of the main producers of LCD and related technologies. The company Saaamsooong ;-) is practicaly governing the country and they need reliable buyers of their tech to ramp up the volumes. Check who will be the main supplier of the tech and who will profit most from government money.

  • You can bet your bottom dollar these will not be iPads. It looks to me like a piece of South Korean government pork to try and provide Samsung with sufficient user base to reach economies of scale where they have a chance of competing with Apple in the global market.
  • Now the Ministry of Plenty only has to do one find on "decreased rations" and one replace with "increased rations".
  • some instructors / professors get a part of cost of the books they write some to point of checking books in class to see that they are new and not old used ones.

  • By LAW DRM can not block screen readers and E-books can also make big print / zooming at lot easier then with the old textbooks.

  • but not 100% yet.
    Apparently Florida voted to require 50% of their textbook budgets on digital materials by 2015: LINK [tbo.com]

    I personally don't think that "digital textbooks" have to look and feel like "printed textbooks."
    Why does it have to be a replication of a printed book?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    You realize how easy it will be to change the content of textbooks, with just a simple button. Any government that does not want something can simply change the e-book in the next update. Books have a permanence that e-books do not. Imagine if the Church had access to the Principia, or The Origin of Species

    • by rubycodez (864176)
      no problem, I can make a CD-ROM of information the government can't alter, or have a "data haven". What's important is open format so I can always read it later. Books can be banned, burned, edited.
  • Am I being paranoid or...
    Being "files" and not printed paper... they could change it's content easily....
    In the years being story could be modified...

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