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Texas Gov. Wants Digital Textbooks

Texas Gov. Rick Perry talked quite a bit about shifting from print to digital textbooks in a speech at the Game on! Texas Symposium, according to this AP article. Considering how big a chunk of the market Texas is for textbook publishers, this development could have major implications for the digital textbook movement.

It's much easier to update digital textbooks, Gov. Perry pointed out, and incorporating technology into schools can help engage students and may lower the drop-out rate of high schoolers in the state. However, whether or not digital textbooks will yield cost savings for schools is yet to be seen, he said.

With the launch of Apple's iPad, as well as e-book readers like the Kindle, an increasing number of educators are looking into digital textbooks as a replacement for print textbooks. This commentary, by director of the American Textbook Council Gilbert T. Sewall, anticipates what the future of digital textbooks might hold. Here is an excerpt:

Publishers are likely to underestimate their editorial expenses and the speed of digitization, especially if they plan to offer the elaborate multimedia ancillaries they promise. Moreover, they face losing business--and control of the medium--if Internet content expands beyond their control. Small online commercial publishers looking for sales, and nonprofit organizations ready to create free open-source lessons, are nipping at their heels. And, having compromised quality and catered to identity groups for decades, established publishers no longer have the allies in government and the schools they once did.

There are a lot of issues at stake here: the tension between textbook publishers and the open textbook movement, the potential cost savings of digitizing textbooks, and making sure students are equipped with the right technological devices to read and access digital textbooks, to name just a few. But as technology and the Internet increasingly become an integral part of teaching and learning, it seems clear that this issue isn't going to go away any time soon.

Have you had any experiences with digital textbooks? Are they a smart move for schools, or are there other factors to be considered? Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments.

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