Will you be taking an e-reader or tablet to school this fall?
With the rise of e-readers and tablets, we may see the end of students carrying pounds of textbook soon.
When I went to college, there were days I'd carry over 20-pounds of books to school in a backpack. Of course, we had it tough back then, "We used to 'ave to get up out of shoebox at twelve o'clock at night and lick the road clean wit' tongue. We had two bits of cold gravel, worked twenty-four hours a day at mill for sixpence every four years, and when we got home our Dad would slice us in two wit' bread knife."
Seriously, though, textbooks were, and still are, a major pain to the back, not to mention my wallet. That's changing now. The rise of e-readers, like the Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook and, what I see as e-readers' replacements, tablets like Apple's iPad, the Cisco Cius and the upcoming wave of Android Linux powered tablets will replace textbooks.
You can already use tablets to highlight sections in your e-books and add notes to them. It's a bit clumsy now, but Barnes & Noble wants to make it easier. Its NOOKstudy program will integrate instant eTextbooks downloads with support for searchable lecture notes, the class syllabus, color slides and images, and other course-related documents, and more. If all goes well with the closed beta testing, you'll be able to download the free NOOKstudy this fall.
Oddly though, NOOKstudy isn't just for Nooks. Indeed, instead of appearing on the Android Linux Nook first, it's going to show up in versions for Windows and Mac OS X. I'm not sure this is such a bright idea. Barnes & Noble, with its recent Nook price-cuts, clearly wants to move Nooks as fast as they can. NOOKstudy actually gives users a reason not to buy one.
Be that as it may, companies like Jumpbooks are making it possible for the old college bookstore to offer eTextbooks to students. While most students will look to Amazon and Barnes & Noble for their digital textbooks, Jumpbooks will make it possible for schools to inexpensively offer school specific textbooks (e.g., for a professor's required readings).
Other companies, like CourseSmart, are already selling eTextbooks directly to students. And, perhaps the best news of all for students and their parents tired of the financial weight of textbooks, most eTextbooks are available at half the price of a new hardbound textbook.
So, while I don't know quite what Barnes & Noble thinks that they're doing, I do know one thing for certain: ETextbooks are what everyone from first graders to graduate students will be taking to school in the near future. There won't be that many doing it this fall, but this trend is as easy to predict as forecasting that an apple will fall from a tree.
See also: Dedicated E-Readers: They're History