Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), a think tank made up of Democratic Party members, thinks that education’s future lies in the Kindle. Their proposal, entitled A Kindle In Every Backpack, makes the argument for moving towards an eTextbook environment for K-12 education.
Their argument is a compelling one. Hardly anyone would disagree that the dominance of eReaders is inevitable, and the DLC is simply arguing that there is no point to wait. Although overhead costs at the start of the project would be high, eReaders would save the government a lot more money in the long run. Also, giving every student an eReader would help address the discrepancy between well-funded schools and those in disadvantaged neighborhoods by making textbook access universal.
Here’s exceprt from the paper by Thomas Z. Freedman explaining long term cost benefits of textbooks going digital:
Over time, this could provide enormous savings. Over the first four or so years of an eTextbook system, we would spend about $9 billion more—in total—than the traditional textbook scheme. Yet by the last year of that initial period, we could have already supplied Kindles, or the digital equivalent, to 100 percent of our students. At that point, the savings would kick in, beginning at over $700 million in the fifth year before holding steady at around $500 million annually in the years immediately following.
I don’t think the plan will be launched within the next couple of days, however. With the current recession, any multi-billion initiative is going to have trouble getting off the ground. Also, the price estimates offered by the DLC are based on assumed drops in manufacturing costs and not really indicative of the cost to roll out the plan today. The accessibility issue would also need to be taken care of before any national plan could be enacted.
But once these issues are resolved, it won’t be long before every child does have some sort of eReader. Hopefully, one that’s is somewhat child-resistant too.