On June 8th California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger launched a digital textbooks initiative. In the speech announcing the initiative Schwarzenegger made his case that printed text books are expensive, outdated, antiquated and heavy:
So this is why I think it is so important that we move on from the textbooks. The textbooks are outdated, as far as I’m concerned and there’s no reason why our schools should have our students lug around these antiquated and heavy and expensive textbooks. California is the home of Silicon Valley. We are the world leader in technology and innovation, so we can do better than that.
That’s why I’m so excited about California’s Digital Textbook Initiative. Starting this fall with high school math and science, we will be the first state in the nation—the first state in the nation —to provide schools with a state-approved list of digital textbooks. Think about this. Traditional hardbound textbooks are adopted in six-year cycles, so as soon as they are printed, then the next six years you don’t get the latest information.
Schwarzenegger evidence of obsolescence is the states own red tape in approving new textbooks (a six year process) and cost of printed books over digital edition. And of course he played the green card:
And then, number two, I think it will help because you don’t have to cutdown as many trees. Think about that, how much paper is being used in those textbooks.
Using digital textbooks is greener if you don't include the energy used by an electronic reading device and overlook the materials that go into make the reading device.
What I found most interesting in this announcement is no mention of what they mean by digital textbook. The only detail as to what the program will look like was Schwarzenegger's comment:
Starting this fall with high school math and science, we will be the first state in the nation—the first state in the nation—to provide schools with a state-approved list of digital textbook.
There is no mention how these digital textbooks will be used or what type of electronic device will be required : a personal computer, an ebook device, iPod Touch, or something else? OR what kind of digital rights management will be in place. Can the books be printed on demand for students that prefer or need a printed edition?
Monday's announcement was strictly a PR event, but with an initiative like this, the success is all in the details. I'm all for using technology in education and there is a lot of opportunity to use computing in the classroom. It will be interesting to watch how all the details are handled.
(Hat Tip to Michael Josefowicz)