Ebooks and Education

I love ebooks.  They could become an invaluable part of everyones life, especially for the student.   Can you imagine being a student where you could search your text books, copy and paste for your study notes or a term paper?  The program integrates with the word processor for automatic documentation and crediting.  The reader searches the books in your library providing and making links to other books that have something to say on the topic?  The technology is already there.  I use a program that does it in my field already.  The program has put 700 books at my disposal.  The interaction is wonderful.

So what are the current problems limiting the e-book explosion in education?

  1. Copyright fears of the publishers. They are scared to death of losing their royalties and credit either through pirating or lack of proper documentation.  Here is the breaking news, you can’t stop the pirating of entire books.  More breaking news, preventing copy and paste only adds the time of copying by typing.  It doesn’t stop people copying portions of your book.  Why not jump in and make it easy to use and through integration improve your chance of being credited.  If publishers think they will fight it and win then they need to look at the music industry.  After traveling abroad it makes the fight in the U.S. look like a drop in the bucket of the actual pirating.  I’m not sure even 10% of the movies and music around the world is legit.
  2. The e-book sales and rental model. I completely understand the relatively small amount of money that the physical printing of each book represents.   I understand that the larger cost is marketing, preparation, distribution, etc.  I recently read an article in an Indian paper that was titled “Billionaires by pennies.”  It identified how the mobile industry is a billion dollar business built on pennies for calls.  People here can’t afford rates any higher.  They made their fortune one penny at time.  Google is a good example in the U.S.  So why doesn’t the publishing industry adopt a similar model.  For the industry to expand it will have to think differently it seems.
  3. The fragility and cost of the devices. I love the iPad from a distance but the glass front frightens me.  They need to be durable for education.  The price may be easy for some, but for e-books to take over the world the readers need to be affordable to most of the world.  What type of arrangement could the publishers and technology companies make to reduce price and yet bring in revenue?  An Apple and ATT&T model of some kind?

As with every opinion piece it is just opinion.  Mine, at the moment, is influenced by living in a developing country.  I see the potential to change the education of a billion people.  It could happen quickly.  Don’t believe me?  Investigate the difference in how many people had mobile phones 10, 5, and 2 years ago.   TweetDeck CEO, Iain Dodsworth, tweeted last week – “70% of young Kenyans use Social Media, 80% have mobile phones – only 50% have an indoor toilet.”  Things are changing.