Later this month Apple will host an event that, according to TechCrunch, “will focus on publishing and eBooks.” Apparently, the event will focus on education, which has this interested party thrilled.
According to this recent post by Digital Book World, children prefer ebooks for reading and learning. Although they cite a small study, the majority of the children preferred ebooks to print books. Most importantly, the study suggests that “children who read e-books also retain and comprehend just as much as when they read print books.”
Two years ago Apple made their foray into ebooks, and this late January event may have just as pronounced an effect on the market. Now, I realize that Apple is not the first to take ebooks to the realm of education – B&N, among others, has done a great job with eTextbooks. But Apple has the hot hand, and I think that when they say, “the time is right for ebooks in the classroom,” the market will listen. And based on the above study, maybe the time is right for education and ebooks to embrace each other.
I think the most important factor in this equation will be comprehension. If student don’t retain information when studying with an ebook, then pushing the technology is worthless. However, what I imagine is a student who, while doing class reading about Napoleon, is able to pull up an encyclopedia article about the Rosetta Stone, or watch an interactive battle map, or find additional reading on early 19th-century French poetry. Yes, that same student could find all of this information without an ebook, but I think the instant connectivity of an ebook and electronic databases could be a great advancement in education. I see the pitfalls of over-information and undisciplined electronics use. However, I think the risk is worth the reward.
If children do indeed prefer ebooks to print books, then there is a generation on the rise that may very well function better with electronic than print media. Starting now to move towards an electronic classroom is important because it will give the educational system time to grow with technology. I won’t advocate for all ebooks in fall 2012, but the more that classrooms and publishers work together, the more likely ebooks are to succeed in the advancing the American education system.
I look forward to Apple’s announcement, but also to watching how publishers approach the growth of educational ebooks.