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Today, our kids get their information from the Internet, downloaded onto their iPods, and in Twitter feeds to their cell phones. A world of up-to-date information fits easily into their pockets and onto their computer screens. So why are California's public school students still forced to lug around antiquated, heavy, expensive textbooks?
California is home to software giants, bioscience research pioneers and first-class university systems known around the world. But our students still learn from instructional materials in formats made possible by Gutenberg's printing press.
It's nonsensical — and expensive — to look to traditional hard-bound books when information today is so readily available in electronic form. Especially now, when our school districts are strapped for cash and our state budget deficit is forcing further cuts to classrooms, we must do everything we can to untie educators' hands and free up dollars so that schools can do more with fewer resources.
Opinion piece continued here.
Other news stories on this topic
Schools may copy Arnold Schwarzenegger and junk their textbooks
California schoolbooks going digital
Novel improvements are being made to the cell phone in Japan. A new trend is being set by Japanese women, cell phone written novels. Barry Petersen reports.
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Brian F. O'Leary has posted slides updating his quantitative research on the effect of "piracy" and/or free giveaways on book-sales, done independently using data from O'Reilly and Random House (the largest tech publisher and general publisher in the world, respectively). The new slides, from the recent Book Expo America, expand the work with a larger data-set, and confirm the earlier findings that free downloads are broadly correlated with higher overall sales (though correlation is not causality!).
Publishers are learning from music labels' struggle to make online music profitable and combat piracy, but so-called e-books will only add value to the industry and not replace printed books, experts say.
The European Union's executive body will study plans by Google to make millions of books available online after Germany said the Internet company's project flouts EU copyright law.
The bloc's industry ministers agreed on Thursday to ask the European Commission to look at how Google's settlement with authors in the United States affect writers' rights in the EU.
Amazon announced today that the super-sized Kindle DX ebook reader will ship on June 10. Unveiled in May, the DX attempts to correct a few perceived weaknesses of the original. In particular, many thought the first Kindle was a grand replacement for bulky novels, but its paperback-sized screen didn’t suit textbooks and magazine pages.
The DX’s bigger screen fills in that hole, but Forrester Research warns that competitors will soon “attack Amazon’s market position by launching new features, expanding content beyond books, dominating markets outside the U.S., reducing costs, and improving relationships with publishers.”
Google appears to be throwing down the gauntlet in the e-book market.
In discussions with publishers at the annual BookExpo convention in New York over the weekend, Google signaled its intent to introduce a program by that would enable publishers to sell digital versions of their newest books direct to consumers through Google. The move would pit Google against Amazon.com, which is seeking to control the e-book market with the versions it sells for its Kindle reading device.
Google’s move is likely to be welcomed by publishers who have expressed concerns about Amazon’s aggressive pricing strategy for e-books. Amazon offers Kindle editions of most new best sellers for $9.99, far less than the typical $26 at which publishers sell new hardcovers. In early discussions, Google has said it will allow publishers to set consumer prices.
Recently, I faced the hideous situation of dead hardware. I had gotten dependent upon my Palm T|X. That model of personal digital assistant ("PDA") was great as it had built in 802.11b WiFi as well as Bluetooth. As long as I was within range of a wireless access point that I had rights to use, I had the Internet in my pocket. Early on, it worked quite well with a wireless infrared keyboard. I had a precursor to a netbook in basic form as I could use the keyboard to compose Word-compatible documents on a small screen. The device was great for trying to read online content such as Mobile Twitter, The Dysfunctional Family Circus, Instapundit, and more.
Unfortunately the PDA got stuck in a soft reset loop. It was showing its age. Three years of dutiful service is beyond what would reasonably be considered "mean time between failure". Although I was able to eventually break it free of the soft reset loop, it is now stuck at the digitizer calibration phase of initial setup. After multiple efforts, the digitizer could not be re-calibrated. I had a very futuristic looking doorstop.
Replacing it was an interesting battle. Initially I was carrying a legal pad and pen with me. While my "analog PDA" worked well for me, it was not small. It also looked quite anachronistic in today's world. That did not work well in the end.
Getting a smartphone was out of the question. Nobody calls! As it is now, I don't really have a cell phone simply because the usage for inbound calls was so light. For outbound calls, I use Skype. While devices like the Palm Centro, the Android G1, and the iPhone exist they really do not meet my needs. If I get a phone, I want one that makes calls. I would much rather have a separate PDA let alone a separate camera.
Getting a replacement PDA is a complicated adventure. The market for stand-alone PDAs is virtually non-existent as of late. I visited retailers like Office Max, Office Depot, Best Buy, and even a pawn shop in search of something comparable. Nothing was available as the trend today is the marriage of the PDA and the cellular telephone.
In the end, I had to turn to eBay. In addition to securing a Terminal Node Controller for certain projects, I picked up a replacement. Instead of getting a Nokia N800 as was sought, I wound up with a Palm IIIx. The Palm IIIx, while serviceable, is a very old device. This PDA is actually old enough that it has a battery door to replace the AAA batteries it runs on. I did get a keyboard to go with it but I need to get a suitable cradle to hook it up to a host computer. The device not only does not have Bluetooth, it does not have 802.11b WiFi either. IrDA-compliant infrared is the most the device has for signalling.
With these recent travails in replacing a PDA, I had given quite a bit of thought to eBooks. How truly valuable are eBooks? How do they compare with an old-fashioned RadioShack book light? As neither my paper books nor the Kindle have any backlight in them, such cannot be curled up with in bed without a booklight. Having to shine a booklight on the screen of the Kindle would be no different from shining one on the Palm IIIx. In that situation, you have a better chance of seeing your own reflection than seeing what you want to read. I am twenty seven years old and should not need "The Clapper" to be able to use an eBook device effectively in bed.
While the eBook may seem to be the way of the future, it does seem to be excessively involved and expensive compared to picking up something from the shelf. For those that feel the need to have everything available to them in one place, I suppose eBooks have a place. Right now I am finding print material to be easier and more enjoyable than the eBooks promoted today.
What is important to you: cute or practical?
On Futuristic Door Stops by Stephen Michael Kellat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.