First Digital-Only Textbook for Kids Makes Its Way to Classrooms


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The switch from paper books to digital books for classrooms has been on the way for a couple years now. It is university classrooms that have been getting most of the attention, however, K-12 classrooms are now getting more play from publishers. McGraw-Hill launched its first digital-only texbook on Monday. Mashable writes that the cloud-based textbook was announced at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference this week, and it is the first time a major publisher has made such a launch.

Digital textbooks have a few advantages over paper books. They can be updated or upgraded without having to reprint thousands of copies or recycle all the old books. There's no needing to transport heavy loads of books from the printer to the schools -- or transport those heavy books from school to home in backpacks. If read often enough, the carbon footprint of a digital book beats that of a printed book.

However, there are some obvious drawbacks. Students have to be able to access the digital books, which means access to a computer or e-reader. The problem of money is quickly a factor -- which schools, or which parents, can provide gadgets for the kids to access their books? And how long of a lifespan does an e-reader have in the hands of a less-than-careful 10-year-old? E-waste could be a serious issue.

Still, the change is happening. Mashable writes, "But textbook makers have good reason to innovate in this area. K-12 textbook sales this April -- traditionally the start of the classroom curriculum buying period -- dropped more than 15% since the same time last year, according to the Association of American Publishers. Digital books might offer one way to help reverse the trend."

This means publishers also have an active interest in ensuring schools have enough computers or e-readers for students. McGraw-Hill is launching a new payment model with its digital textbooks that allows schools to purchase one book per child per year. Meanwhile, other publishers are also partnering with consumer electronics companies to help create deals on hardware for schools that go the digital route.

In just a few more years, we may see paper replaced with pixels -- and we'll start to have a better grasp of exactly what kind of environmental footprint going digital in schools will have.

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