American Students Falling Behind in Use of Electronic Notepads as Replacements for Textbooks

Despite all the noise surrounding the growing popularity of notepads, particularly the iPad, one sector is notably lagging, and that’s the use of notepads as a replacement for textbooks; the reason says Gagdet Lab, is because the companies that make textbooks are doing their best to apply the brakes. It all comes down to money they say, and traditional textbook printing is a cash cow if ever there were one. This is in direct contrast to what is going on in Europe as The Telegraph reports that textbooks are being replaced by notepads and e-readers at a truly historic rate.

This news comes as a sort of sad revelation when viewed in terms of the promise shown when the iPad was first unveiled. Images in television commercials showing animated textbooks in vibrant colors with sound and clips from various sources to back up such material, are now being slowly replaced by commercials touting how fun it is to play video games or interactive communications between friends via social networking sites. This in spite of ventures such as the Inkling, as described just last year in both USA Today newspaper and The New York Times.

Why is the US falling behind in the use of new technology that by all accounts is far better suited to presenting interesting material in a lighter package?

Gadget Lab says it’s all about the bottom line. It’s partly due to the way textbooks are assigned by college professors, and partly about how textbook publishers go about their business.

Everyone knows that there isn’t any real money in textbooks until students reach college. Thus, textbook publishers have been raising prices for years; so much so that a regular college textbook now costs more in some cases, than an electronic notebook or laptop. Textbook printers understand that making textbooks available in digital form would mean losing control of their content, thus, the choose to force college students to continue with the old paper model, and because of that, the effect trickles down to high school, middle school and grade school texts as well, leaving American students falling farther and farther behind in the use of new technology in education.

Contrast this with the support e-readers and notepads are getting in Britain, where educators there, according to the Telegraph, say paper texts may disappear completely in less than five years. Reasons cited are the reduction in the volume of stuff students have to carry around. One iPad can replace all of a student’s textbooks for example, as well as serving as a very capable media for taking notes. Thus, along with the disappearance of textbooks, go pens, pencils, writing pads, and erasers. Very soon, students may carry nothing but their notepad, and their lunch.

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