The Future of Education – Textbooks or eBooks?

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The Future of Education – Textbooks or eBooks

This is a question that many parents and educators have been asking themselves for the last few years.

As every school year starts parents rush to the bookstores to get their books after the schools have gone through all the different options on the market choosing the most efficient or attractive book for their students but is this going to change over the next few years ? and most importantly will it develop to a point where traditional textbooks disappear completely and give way to more advanced eBooks?

Well, who knows, the most logical answer after seeing how cassettes, desktop computers and traditional telephones have practically disappeared is to say yes, it’s just a matter of time before traditional books disappear, eBooks don’t occupy space, they don’t get dirty, they are light to carry, easy to share, they are all advantages and most important of all … they are cheaper and this is an important point to consider.

What is the biggest problem with textbooks ?

Every year parents, specially if they have two or more children spend an arm, a leg and a kidney on textbooks which usually are not even finished, actually if you are lucky they might see half the book during the school year, so this has lead many publishers to cash in on a forever growing market; cheaper more flexible, a la carte eBooks.

Obviously most parents will say they don’t want their kids looking at a computer or tablet screen all day long and I’m sure many doctors will agree that this is not the ideal case scenario either, but this doesn’t mean that eBooks are bound for disaster, to the contrary, publishers have come up with a very good and very cost productive idea for everyone Òprint on demand technologyÓ in other words customised textbooks, this had opened the door to some very effective cost-cutting strategies which are gaining market share very quickly as they alleviate the immense drain that textbooks have on the family budget.

Are our kids ready for it ?

Many countries and publishers have started applying this idea in different levels and different types of schools. Apart from the obvious economic advantage there is a modern hands-on method which many teachers appreciate as it allows them to make up their own textbook using different eBooks from different publishers.

We also must consider that our younger generation has been brought up with technology and computers, kids as young as 3 are using smartphones and tablets so they will be much more receptive to the use of an eBook in the classroom in opposed to print books.

So eBooks have taken off in the publishing world, they are proving beneficial to authors, readers, teachers and other educational structures, but exactly what are the advantages of eBooks?:

1. Ebooks can be updated instantly, nowadays where news and information is updated on the spot it can mean that students can work with news and matters that are happening around them at that same moment. Real-time data becomes an excellent tool for teachers.

2. According to recent studies carried out with primary and secondary students it is proven that they perform better on computer based tests, actually results on computer based tests have increased 10% compared to traditional paper tests.

3. If students obtain better results and students react better to eBooks schools will be more interested in this type of material as less important content will be replaced with updated content.

So, are eBooks perfect ?

Well even though eBooks look like the perfect solution they do have some drawbacks; the first and maybe the most important to consider is that kids need to handle their books, how many times have you seen a kid running around the playground kicking a ball in a football match carrying the book he was studying for his next exam?, do you imagine him doing that with his iPad ?

Another important question, who doesn’t have a really old book at home handed down from generation to generation?, this is not so with eBooks, we have to take into account the battery life and speed of these devices, the size of the screen is not really the adequate size for long-time reading and the ability to easily add highlighted text without worries that the device might restart or crash and all your work is lost is crucial and still far from ideal.

Probably as the devices are improved it will mean the rise in popularity of eBooks although nowadays it still has a lot of detractors, but I think there is still a long way before they completely replace our old fellows the textbooks from our schools.

So what is the future for textbooks?

Well many people say textbooks won’t disappear completely, I personally tend to disagree with them but textbooks could still be saved for some time anyway, how ? Well the only possible way they can survive is through personalisation if publishers customise textbooks for teachers and professors based on their individual needs and cut out the extra unnecessary pages the cost of printing would go down solving the expense problem, after all why would anyone want to pay for something they don’t want and won’t use?

Keith Appleby

Director of CET Services

Chief Editor of the Canary Express