Sunday, August 22, 2010

Digital Tablets - Should Schools Provide them to Students?

About a month ago, I finally took the plunge and got myself a Kindle.  This was after nearly a year of following Kindle reviews, forum posts about the pros and cons of Kindles and of course watching the price drop to less than $200.  I viewed this purchase as part business expense and part reward.  After all, how could I see what my books look like on the Kindle if I didn't have one?  And then, of course, there was the whole, "I've got a Kindle" excitement.

Now call me old-fashioned, but I'm not one to rush out and get the latest digital gadget every time one hits the market.  I carefully consider the pros and cons of the device and, of course, price. With the economy still in the toilet, price is a big consideration.

All of this is leading up to an article I read in the paper today.  In a Clearwater, FL, public high school, they plan on providing all 2100 of their students with a Kindle instead of using the traditional textbooks.  Am I missing something here?  Is this the best use of tax payers money?  I can tell you that I would not be happy if I lived in Clearwater and found out that my money was used this way.  I don't know what the school department's budget is like in Clearwater, but I can tell you up here in the Northeast, schools are struggling to provide standard school materials for their students.  What happens when the Kindle breaks?  If the student drops it?  If there is a spill of soda all over the screen?  How many Kindles will each student be issued?

I was even more shocked to read further into the article and find out that a parochial school in Wisconsin will issue their sixth- and seventh-graders Apple iPads.  Are you kidding me?  iPads costs $600!!! How long do you think it will be before those kids are doing everything with their iPads EXCEPT reading textbooks?

What do you think?  Am I way behind the times or are these schools the wave of the future?


  1. You are way behind the times, and these schools are the wave of the future. You need to stop thinking short-term costs. Proper analysis uses a cost benefit analysis over the life time of the product usefulness. If you do this, you will see that the long-term cost can be less than the long-term cost of traditional textbooks.

    So a Kindle Wi-Fi goes for $139, a little less than the average price of a textbook, you place all is not most of the needed textbooks on the device at 1/2 the cost. Put the price of the kindle and the digital textbooks together and the price is really close to the same as you would have paid for the traditional books. Tally possible maintenance cost and you are probably at about the same price tag as your traditional. The iPad is a little different, but the diversity of capabilities of the product provide an interactive learning platform far superior to the traditional model.

    Textbooks are replaced as well; soda spills, ripped, torn, and lost books all need to be replaced. Most schools charge students(Parents for this); what makes you think it will be different for the Kindles or iPads. These textbooks cost between $60 to $180 each, and are expected to last six years. Replace those books twice in the six year period and you could have paid for 1 to 3 Kindles. Schools can currently by one digital copy and download that copy on up 10 devices. Couple this with the previous pricing model and the cost has gone way down. The most expensive part on these devices is the screen, which on a kindle is less than $80 retail, and iPad about $140 retail. If the schools get discounts, which they probably will (good PR), then that cost is less.

    These are the realities of digital. Up front more expensive, long-term, really cheap.

  2. Anonymous,

    You could be right, but I've seen the way some kids treat their digital devices - needless to say many of them are replaced numerous times. If the schools issue rules that students will only receive the first Kindle free and then are responsible for any replacement Kindles, it could be cost effective.

    However, I think it will be a few years yet before we see Kindles replacing textbooks in the majority of school systems.