Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Public Service Announcement

I apologize for writing something only tangentially related to writing, but it has to do with eBooks,  Kindles, and stuff.

Ebooks will change the way books are read and published. This threatens some of the not-poor who will have to change the way they do business. Just ask Borders books. It also will disrupt patterns of power distribution between writers, agents, and publishers. None of this should be news.
Do-gooders often like to write hand-wringing essays about The Poor. I recently read here and here that the widespread adoption of ebooks will freeze out poor children from reading. And you probably know that Amazon as dropped its prices to $79 for the normal Kindle, and $199 for the Fire. Now add one more component to this equation: public schools.

When I was a kid the nicest and most expensive books I ever saw were my textbooks. They were glossy, and colorful. Now, I just read here that public school systems are poised to save a lot of money in storage space and shipping costs by switching their texts to ebooks.

Can these savings subsize Kindles for public school children? One of Newt Gingrich's more outrageous ideas was to give laptops to homeless people. I still think it's ridiculous. But it makes sense to give Kindles to disadvantaged school children with their ebook texts.

I can see some very well-heeled corporations spending millions demonizing this idea. But there are even more millions to be made by Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and/or Apple switching public school children from dead-tree texts to ebooks.

Update: I hear that the Indian government is moving forward on something along these lines.


  1. As easy as it is to resist change, we have to embrace it. There are not many wagon wheel makers left anymore. They are not even teaching kids cursive writing in school. Change as much as we hate it, is constant. So the best thing to do is support the change to ebooks.

  2. I can see a lot of advantages to this -- schools can afford to update texts more frequently, highlighting and note-taking possible without defacing books, fewer back problems (have actually been documented from heavy backpacks!).

    Disadvantages include the inevitable format wars (Kindle, Nook, or tablet? Android or Apple?), the necessary IT to support e-readers and keep them "clean" of malware and kids' mischievous stuffs.

    Schools might make a pretty penny on it, too, when manufacturers realize that, like a first credit card or early soft drink, kids will cling to their first e-reader brand. I can see even the usually socially-ambiguous Apple "donating" millions of iPads with the expectation of creating millions of Apple customers.


Those more worthy than I: