Electronic school materials, interactive content available for use on iPads, could save thousands of dollars for schools and students. I agree the cost-savings is beneficial, but what about the other side of that coin? Authors of grade ten geology textbooks usually aren’t rockstar-rich. Are educational publishing houses truly making enormous profits at $73 per textbook?
Consider David Brin‘s points regarding the fallacy of the 99 cent novel. Some time ago, he pointed out that a cheap content distribution medium (digital) does not negate the hours/years of investment in Intellectual Property or Knowledge Work.
How realistic can it be to expect immediate cost reductions from a digital platform for curriculum delivery? It is promising significant additional features such as thoroughly re-worked content, interactive videos, and graphing calculators. Good software does not spring from the trees for free – interactive content is not a textbook’s PDF downloaded to an iPad.
Certainly I do applaud the school system getting thousands of dollars of savings; but what use is it, if textbook publishers are bankrupted within five years?
From a now-unavailable Tuscon News article we spotted some time ago on twitter:
At Boston-based Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, for instance, programmers scrambled to create an iPad-specific secondary school program starting almost as soon as Apple unveiled the tablet in Spring 2010.
The publisher’s HMH Fuse Algebra program, which became available at the start of the 2010 school year, was among the first and is a top seller to districts. Another algebra program and a geometry offering are coming out now.
The HMH Fuse online app is free and gives users an idea of how it works, and the content can be downloaded for $60. By comparison, the publisher’s 950-page algebra text on which it was based is almost $73 per copy, and doesn’t include the graphing calculators, interactive videos and other features.
For a school that would buy 300 of the textbooks for its freshman class, for instance, the savings from using the online version would be almost $4,000.