The Daily Need

Should every kid get a Kindle?

As e-readers and electronic booksellers reshape the publishing industry, companies like Amazon and Apple are seeking entrée into a new and potentially lucrative swath of the market: textbooks. And now, apparently, they’re getting encouragement from lawmakers.

Photo: Flickr/jimmiehomeschoolmom

Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York has called for public schools to give their students e-readers, like the Kindle or the Nook from Barnes & Noble, rather than stacks of voluminous textbooks, which are heavy, expensive and often years out of date. The switch would, of course, be a boon to electronic publishers, which have moved aggressively in recent months to enter the $9.9 billion textbook industry.

“Our children today have almost an expectation that they’re going to have these tools of modern technology from the very earliest ages,” Weiner said in an interview. “And here we are, we’re giving them something that basically even adults believe is increasingly anachronistic, which is a big old textbook.”

Weiner said he was inspired, in part, by a recent dinner with his onetime political nemesis, Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg was rather famously one of the first public figures to purchase Apple’s new tablet computer, the iPad, and the device can be glimpsed at the billionaire mayor’s side at most of his public appearances.

“Quite literally, I sat down to dinner with him, he had it on the table,” Weiner said of Bloomberg. “He was listing for me all the ways that it has made his life better,” Weiner added, “and a lot of them were basically him learning: learning about a stop he’s about to go to, getting texts of things he’s about to read, being able to follow up on things as he gets them.”

According to Weiner, Bloomberg added: “I probably need one less person around me because I’ve got this thing.”

By Weiner’s calculation, the use of digital textbooks could also save cash-strapped public schools hundreds of thousands of dollars, by eliminating bulk textbook purchases, which cost about $137 per pupil in Weiner’s home city of New York. Some amount of negotiation with electronic publishers would probably be necessary, Weiner added. And he cautioned that the market probably has not yet reached the “price point” where the procurement of e-readers would be cheaper than bulk textbook purchases.

However, electronic booksellers would probably have incentive to offer discounts to bulk buyers like public school systems, Weiner added, especially if they intend to thrive in the increasingly competitive digital publishing market. Providing a way into textbook sales through public elementary and secondary education would also give electronic publishers a leg up in pursuing other corners of the market, such as colleges and universities.

“There was a tense stand-off in the publishing industry about how publishers were going to handle the emergence of e-readers, and they eventually decided, ‘I got to be on the bandwagon, so I’m not under that bandwagon,’” Weiner said. “So they struck deals.”

An added benefit of the introduction of electronic textbooks into schools might also be the ability to seal off public classrooms from the influence of politics, Weiner acknowledged. Earlier this year, for example, the Texas Board of Education set off a national firestorm when several of its members sought to alter the state’s public school curriculum to reflect conservative orthodoxy on issues like economics and religion.

Organizations like the National Council for History Education and the American Civil Liberties Union feared the changes would affect textbooks in states across the country. Texas makes such large textbook purchases, they said, that publishers would have to tailor their products to meet the curriculum standards set forth by the Texas board. Making textbooks digital, Weiner acknowledged, might obviate that one-size-fits-all approach.

“What this would allow is an acceleration of something we already have going on in education, which is giving teachers much more flexibility and ability to deal with their class and individual students and where they are on the page, so to speak,” Weiner said. “Just like the internet has been a democratizing force, I think that this would be a democratizing force that would empower teachers more than it would school boards.”

 
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Comments

  • urbanvegan

    This goes in-depth about the features of the iPad, but it’s the Kindle that’s the focus of the debate regarding schools. Why the shift in focus? The Kindle has a smaller screen and much, much fewer features. Are we really sure this is a better option for kids than books?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000736787797 Kalen Kattestad

    I don’t know much about either, but I’m questioning how well these would work for lower-income students without internet connections at home. Do the readers store enough information or would the student need access to the web? Foreseeing some logistical problems (cheating for one) but an interesting idea.

  • http://thesmartestmanontheinternets.blogspot.com/ M. Edward Kelly

    They absolutely should not get a Kindle, at the very least until Amazon gives up their DRM fetish. Do we really want to hand every child a device where, should they want to actually purchase anything, they’d be forced to do business with only a single company? Go for a nook or even an ipad, at least then kids can get books in different formats.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dmcdonaldak Debbie McDonald

    The newer models can save up to 3,500 books so they would not need the internet to read after saving the books.

    What concerns me is a while back we were told to keep children away from cell phones because of the radiation that is dangerous to brain development. I don’t know much about the technology behind the ipad, Kindle and Nook but I wonder if it would cause the same problem?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=592001817 Bob Brown III

    It’s cheaper. Kids love it. If it makes them read then do it. Battery life is not an issue. A Kindle battery lasts for a month without charging. It’s cheaper than buying and administering all those paper books. Keep copies in the library. No more carrying twenty pounds in backpacks. A school in Clearwater, Florida has done it. Why not ask them how well it is working out?

  • halfcracker

    It’s cheaper. Kids love it. If it makes them read then do it. Battery life is not an issue. A Kindle battery lasts for a month without charging. It’s cheaper than buying and administering all those paper books. Keep copies in the library. No more carrying twenty pounds in backpacks. A school in Clearwater, Florida has done it. Why not ask them how well it is working out?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1223427404 Jane Wilson Wolff

    I own an Ipad and love love love it. It goes with me everywhere. I have at least ten novels on it that I want to read or have started plus one of my textbooks for college. I email, surf the net, play games, read the newspaper and my magazine subscriptions, check maps, keep my calendar, watch videos, movies — the apps seem unlimited. I think it will be wonderful when students can have all of their textbooks and materials and access to the electronic Bb on an 8 X 10, 1/2 inch device.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1223427404 Jane Wilson Wolff

    I own an Ipad and love, love, love it. It goes with me everywhere. I have at least ten novels on it that I want to read or have started plus one of my textbooks for college. I email, surf the net, play games, read the newspaper and my magazine subscriptions, check maps, keep my calendar, watch videos, movies — the apps seem unlimited. I think it will be wonderful when students can have all of their textbooks and materials and access to the electronic Bb on an 8 X 10, 1/2 inch device.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Johnson/583607638 Andrew Johnson

    a one size fits all approach?? who ever said that history is debatable??? its not! the answer is to teach them the truth morons! why have some kid in texas be taught something different than a child in boston or somewhere? What needs to be updated yearly in english, history, math? ok, maybe science books. cause that changes yearly. but how is buying a pupil a kindle yearly; then buying the digital version textbook yearly; cheaper than reusing the textbooks year after year. only updating when necessary. how is that cheaper??

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Johnson/583607638 Andrew Johnson

    thats also a great issue… im sure lower income households would have issues on this…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000468994656 Joi Ellis

    I think this is a grand idea. Give each kid a Kindle in 3rd grade or so, when they’re old enough to operate it properly and not break it so quickly, and eliminate the need for heavy, bulky book bags for the rest of the kid’s school career. How many older kids end up with back damage because we overload them with heavy books? This also eliminates the “my text book is 10 years old” problem so many schools have. 10 years is a long time between updates for history, science, etc to go. With a Kindle the school district can reload them with fresh books yearly if their funding allows. And It’s not Amazon that enforces the DRM, it’s the publishers that demand it. I have lots of non-DRM’d material on my Kindle. Look at all of the public domain classics that are available now.

  • 9Muses

    As a teacher of history, I must tell you: history is always debatable, Andrew. History is based upon interpretation of primary sources, our interpretations change with the types of sources (i.e., information) we have available (since new information comes to light quite frequently), and as a result history is a dynamic subject with constantly shifting nuances and subtleties in how it is understood and presented. Fifty years ago, history textbooks did not include much, if any, information on the roles of women, slaves, and children in shaping the world; today’s textbooks consider all sorts of documents about minority contributions to our world’s history. The idea that history isn’t debatable? Well, that is debatable!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Anderson/1126622077 Michael Anderson

    I love my Sony e-reader for general book reading, I think that CafeScribe is a better platform for textbooks. It has a very robust search feature, allows for note taking, highlighting, and note sharing. It also has an auto-summary feature for viewing your notes. It merges the ebook with social networking, which allows you to enter into a complete learning environment rather than just a book. Plus, since it is housed on your computer, you can integrate your ebook with your office programs. The problem with the government getting involved in things like this is I can see them mandating use of the Kindle, when there are other options out there that may serve the students of various school districts better.

  • student

    I do think this is an excellent idea especially as a student this would help students across the nation

  • Paigenine11

    As a student I Think this is a good idea and it seems alot easier for kids.

  • RRIBBLE

    I am a student in 8th grade and think i would use the Kindle alot if i had one.

  • JOEYIMYNICKNAME

    I think the Kindle is good because, its everything everyone needs to go to to know about things.

  • CMiller

    i think the ipad is better but a Kindle is cheaper…..so i believe that i would buy one but i really dont read so its not for me

  • Coltmancogna

    i think this is a dumb but good idea but that is because were are not wasting trees and it is dumb beacuse i just dont likie to read so this kindle is not the thing for me.

  • Timbo Slice

    I think Kindle would be a good idea but do you have Kindle money?

  • CALEBISALPHA

    I believe that the Kindle is a good idea but if you take it somewhere to read will you have internet access to use the book?

  • Seda1717

    i think that that as a student that kids should get a kindle because sence its an electronic and its for reading then it might make learning more fun and eaiser.

  • WAFFLTROPLOPLIS

    I think this just an awful idea. THINK OF ALL THE PEOPLE WITH JOB LOSSES!

  • Joshua

    I think the Kindle could be a good thing for struggling readers and it would be fun. I also think that it could be a bad thing because it could get broke or stolen and it could cost a lot of money to replace.

  • Joshua

    I think the Kindle could be a good thing for struggling readers and it would be fun. I also think that it could be a bad thing because it could get broke or stolen and it could cost a lot of money to replace.

  • B-Randon Tyler

    I think every kid should get a kindle because I think it would help them get better at reading bigger books or smaller books but other than that every kid should get a Kindle.

  • B-Randon Tyler

    I think every kid should get a kindle because I think it would help them get better at reading bigger books or smaller books but other than that every kid should get a Kindle.

  • SuPaDuPaDezZi

    NO! Every kid should not get a Kindle because it would distract kids from actually reading. It would also prevent authors from making as much money as they could make if their books were sold in a store.

  • SuPaDuPaDezZi

    NO! Every kid should not get a Kindle because it would distract kids from actually reading. It would also prevent authors from making as much money as they could make if their books were sold in a store.

  • Kyleo

    Your comment has no basis in fact what so ever.

  • Youngartz

    Well I am two sided on this issue…. as I watch a little 45 pound child lug a 40 pound backpack I think about the pain he will have at my age of 50.. I suffer spinal injuries and I know the pain.

    I am a voracious reader, electronic, paper, and audio… I like the idea because children are into electronic media… not paper.

    Saving trees (let’s ban junk mail as well) should be a priority…

    Authors should get the same royalties they do in paper.
    Less paper wasted, up to date, smarter children makes my vote a yes.

    BUT THEN AGAIN… what happens when someone pulls the electronic plug?

    Let’s do some math and give them the electronic resources, but make DARN SURE THERE IS A BACK UP PLAN AND SUPPLIES KEPT UP TO DATE…JUST IN CASE

  • http://www.kindlestand.net Daniel

    Actually, authors stand to make far more money from eBooks than they have been able to make from traditional books. Eventually, ePublishing will completely eliminate the middlemen from many types of book sales. The author will sell directly to the reader. At that point, if a reader is willing to pay $9 for the book, the author makes $9. A traditional book needs to sell for about $60 for a typical author to earn $9.

  • http://www.kindlestand.net/ebook-device/kindle-in-every-backpack Daniel

    Your article got me thinking about the challenges that eTextbook distribution must create. With a one-copy-one-Kindle model, a school would have to buy a new eTextbook license for each incoming student… unless publishers offer a way to pass an eTextbook off to a new device. I posted some thoughts about it at: Kindle Stand I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  • Sjm1086

    no you only need the internet if you plan on buying a book