Saturday, 21 January 2012

Every school kid should be handed one (eBook reader, that is!)

Since gaining an eBook reader at Christmas, I have read dozens of books, many more than I would usually over that small period of time till now, four weeks later, and certainly more than the equivalent in paperbacks I would have bought. The books read have also been varied, not only my usual taste, but a mixture of the classics, contemporary crime fiction, and educational. And the fact is, with the rise of eBook stores like Kindle on Amazon, Smashwords, and many others, as well as fantastic online depositories of classics like the Gutenburg Project, where tens of thousands of eBooks are downloadable absolutely free on a variety of formats, I don't ever again foresee the day when I will be stuck for something to read.

I can feel sorry for school kids these days. We're always hearing how kids don't read any more, they spend all their time stuck in front of a computer screen, they don't exercise, they don't blah blah de, gloom, gloom... Well, take computer screens for example, and the internet which invariably is accessible via such computer screens. That is a portal to education that I couldn't have dreamt of when I was a school kid, and a kid even spending a great deal of time gaming, is still picking up and learning when they're not in the pursuit of baddies from planet X or wherever, or landing a 747 in some simulated tricky airport with virtual crosswinds of a disastrous nature. In reality, even kids that 'don't read' are reading and taking in a hell of a lot educationally in the course of a week's computer access.

Some facts. Let's face it, kids embrace technology, and text books are usually pretty heavy, dull, and lacking in technology. Printed books are expensive to buy, and printed books wear out quickly, especially when carried around from home to school, school to park, park to mall, mall to home, usually in a bag not fit for purpose and endlessly thrown around and flipped from shoulder to shoulder throughout the course of a day. A School book won't last long, no matter how studious and conscientiously caring the child bearing it for a time uses it. It will soon become ragged, pages loose, stained by food and drink, and treated to its detriment in a variety of demeaning ways. On the other hand, an eBook reader is light, robust, will fit in a large pocket, or can be carried in a cheap fit for purpose case that will keep it safe and earnestly working for years to come. An eBook reader will hold within its slim dimensions, hundreds of books (my particular model can hold around 1400). EBooks can be bought cheaper, will last longer, will never, as long as the device, and a computer with the backup, is available, be lost, coffee stained, or lose important pages from the end of a chapter!

A kid with an eBook reader isn't a kid with a book, a kid with an eBook reader is a kid with an near unlimited library of knowledge available to them with a few clicks and the seconds it takes to transfer a text book, a classic novel, or a wealth of knowledge of science, engineering, history, art, or whatever interest is stimulating the holder of that simple piece of technology. School kids will begin to read again.

I don't know the in's and out's of a typical school budget, regarding the buying of text books, whether local education authorities pool resources in buying technology for education. I couldn't tell you when economies of scale decide when something or another is now economically viable. What I can tell you is that if you give a kid an eBook reader when starting school, and stock the school library with all the electronic text books that kid will use in the time he spends at that school, then in the long run that school will save not only in the budget previously used for printed books, but will more than save the cost of initially buying the eBook readers for those pupils. The kids at that school will benefit immeasurably, not only because they will be reading again, but because of that almost unlimited library of knowledge available to them through this device that the school has provided; the curriculum books will be accessible, but so will much much more. The younger siblings of those kids, when they enter that school, will read the same books, for these electronic books won't wear out, or lose pages, or become stained with coffee, juice, or ice-cream. They will practically last forever. The school will benefit not only in saving money that can be used elsewhere in the realms of the education system, but will also turn out brighter, more intelligent kids, used to having the wonder of almost unlimited knowledge at their fingertips.

The present day price of most eBook readers, I think, would make it feasible, especially with bulk discounts, to issue every kid one of these devices. Most printed books a school will use will probably already be available in a less expensive eBook version, or I'm sure can easily be adapted to such with a little formatting, and a publisher willing to do the change or lose the sale. I'm sure handing every kid an eBook reader is a win, win, win, situation. The kid wins, the school wins, and society would also be a winner.

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