Back-to-School: The Latest Textbook Technology

Will e-books revolutionize the way Canadian students study?

In June of last year, it looked like California was about to dramatically transform the world of textbooks. So often the harbinger of change, the state appeared to be taking the lead in an educational trend that was about to sweep the continent; announcing a move in its high schools from traditional textbooks to e-books, in fact Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger held out four heavy tomes and joked that the retired relics would now be used for curls in his legendary workout sessions. So what’s all the fuss about?

The advantages

E-textbooks don’t hasten the deaths of any trees, and they can include a number of cool, high-tech elements, including streaming media, links to other resource material, interactive features and the capacity for individual feedback.

The challenges

Billed as affordable (some cost one third of the price of printed versions), e-textbooks can be more expensive than used hard copies, plus they require pricey equipment to view them. Moreover, they are often “time-bombed,” e-book parlance for a common practice where a book has an expiry date (180 days is typical), after which the pages simply disappear from one’s device or computer.

While we don’t have any specifics on when and if e-textbooks will infiltrate Canadian schools, we suspect it’s just a matter of time. Watch this space!

—Tim Johnson, CF‘s contributing editor

For more of the latest news on this year’s educational trends, check out CF’s Back-to-School Guide. And find our complete September 2010 issue available in digital edition here!

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