E-books in education
Electronic books may not have gained mass-market appeal just yet, but they are a god-send for education, according to a report at the Popular Science site.
Clearly e-books are at a very early stage of evolution, and remain fairly exclusively in the hands of the first-adopter gadget freaks and techno-heads to whom they appeal most.
But of course that's never going to be enough for the publishers. They want everybody to adopt the e-book standard if they are going to commit themselves to it. Despite appearing to treat the idea with disdain, most dead-tree publishers must be fascinated with the idea of drastically reducing print and distribution costs, without having to cut prices.
But could they get away with not cutting prices? Perhaps one reason why Stephen King's recent e-text experiment was so successful was that each chunk of text was quite cheap.
It was an experiment in micro-payments. Pay per chapter, and if you get bored or you just don't like it, you don't have to pay for any more.
To the educationalists mentioned in PopSci's story, the e-book is a solution to the problem of coping with demand from students.
One is quoted saying:
"E-books will change the way classes are taught because students will have so much more information. They make the professor more a guide than a pontificator, which professors should never be anyway. They're going to put an awful lot of responsibility on the students."
Perhaps more importantly, it will be a demographic, generational shift. These young students are the next generation of investors and consumers. Like all new technologies, it's the younger generation who adapt faster, and will be less attached to dead-tree publications as they get older.
The consensus to date has been that no-one would ever want to get rid of their lovely paper books, because nothing digital has the same feel. Perhaps that's just the consensus of the old guard, and the kids will have a quite different view on the matter.