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Switch to eReaders

It was with interest that I read the article titled Textbook loan scheme woes on August 1 in one of our local newspapers. The issue, as Catherine Mitchell of Parkinson Memorial School, Junior Boxill of the Lester Vaughan School, Cheryl Trotman of Deighton Griffith School and Margaret Aimey of Queen’s College explains, is that the loaner books used to “last approximately eight to ten years, but they now had to squeeze three to four years out of the books” as they are returned in poor condition by the students.

This type of book degradation issue came to light a number of years ago when the public library had to dispose of many books because of fungus degradation. Although I do not have the cost of this loss at hand I can bet that it is significant. It is also easily avoidable in both cases.

eReaders have existed since before either of these issues were brought to light. The current retail cost of eReaders is between less than US $100 and the most US $200. That price could reduced through bulk purchasing. This is less than the cost of some text books.

If private industry along with the Government could subsidise a portion of this cost then eReaders could be purchased in bulk and sold to the students at a fraction of the cost of the corresponding text books needed by that student. Instead of carting around a sack of text books to classes the student could then lighten his load and carry just one eReader (which he owns and is more likely to take care of than a loaner text book). Did I mention the “cool” factor as well as the fact that the same eReader can be used year after year by the student?

For those who are not familiar with an eReader, it is a tablet type of device which is capable of downloading PDF files via Wi-Fi. The PDF of the text book to be downloaded is placed on a server and the student accesses that server to download his text book with his eReader.

Barrack Obama introduced eReaders to his staff at the beginning of his first term in an effort to go “green” (as in the “green economy” that we hear so much about) and to save printing costs. The eReader screen, unlike ipads, can be read anywhere — in pitch dark or bright sunlight. eReaders also have annotation capabilities so that the student can make notes all over the pages if he likes.

The whole programme could be phased in over several years. With the cost of electronic devices dropping every year the resulting cost savings would be enormous. The budget would not need to be increased as some of the money earmarked for hard copy books could be diverted to eReader distribution.

Will some one, please do the math.

* This article by John Everatt of Christ Church was submitted as a letter to te editor.

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