Governments Nudge Electronic Textbooks Nearer A Tipping Point

Two things happened this week that suggest electronic textbooks could get more prevalent faster than they have up to now.  Granted, this says nothing about textbook readers, but I think a platform-independent format (something that can play on multiple devices) is going to be the preferred method for education books.

First we go to the state of California, a formidable textbook market in its own right.  A Megan Garber notes, Governor Brown signed into law a proposal to create a portal for students to download popular textbooks for free.  According to the Los Angeles Times, the textbooks would be open source, and any related materials would also be available electronically for free.  Hardbook copies would cost $20.  Course and textbooks that would be placed on the site would be determined by a council of faculty.  Lower-division courses would be an area of emphasis.

Later in the week Education Secretary Arne Duncan spoke at the National Press Club.  While not part of his prepared remarks, electronic textbooks apparently came up at some point during the discussion.  According to press reports, he said that paper textbooks should become obsolete over the next few years.  Duncan had recently returned from a long bus tour of several school districts, including some in California, so that state’s recent actions may have influenced his remarks.  He also noted that other countries are more rapidly moving towards electronic texts, and doesn’t care to see the U.S. fall behind.

So we have one state actively shaping its textbook market to move towards electronic texts, and an Education Secretary publicly saying electronic textbooks are where the country needs to go.  Hopefully these encouragements will help grow the market.