I have written several times about the need to switch from printed books to electronic publishing, often referred to as "e-books." Many people, myself included, believe the future of printed books is doomed as the cost of paper, inventory storage, shipping expenses, and the associated labor costs continue to escalate. Contrast that with the ever-decreasing costs of electronic publishing and online storage, ease of distribution via high-speed "always on" networks, improving video displays, and reduced labor requirements, and the future soon becomes obvious: electronic publishing makes economic sense.
Now one more person has gone on record as favoring electronic publishing: California's Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Last year, California spent $350 million on textbooks; so, facing a state budget shortfall of $24.3 billion, Governor Schwarzenegger has unveiled a plan to save money by phasing out "antiquated, heavy, expensive textbooks" in favor of Internet aids. His proposal is to switch all math and science textbooks to online versions for the coming school year and then to switch other courses to electronic texts in future years. He says converting to online study will also help keep pupils more up-to-date.
On Monday, Governor Schwarzenegger signed an executive order to scrap funding on contracts from 1 March and bar state agencies from entering into new ones.
The e-books to be used must first pass an academic standards review. In other words, the e-content must be at least as good as the printed textbooks that have been used in the recent past. The only difference will be the distribution method: replacing paper with electronic text of the same or similar information.
Schwarzenegger believes that there are two major benefits. The first is the most obvious: a financial savings of hundreds of millions of dollars. However, the second benefit is a bit more subtle: encouraging youngsters to use computers and online tools will better prepare them for the future job market, where computer expertise is being required in more and more non-computer jobs. Internet activities such as Facebook, Twitter, and downloading to iPods show that young people are already the first to adopt new online technologies. Schwarzenegger believes that using Internet tools is the best way to learn in classrooms.
"It's nonsensical — and expensive — to look to traditional hard-bound books when information today is so readily available in electronic form," writes Schwarzenegger. "As the music and newspaper industries will attest, those who adapt quickly to changing consumer and business demands will thrive in our increasingly digital society and worldwide economy. Digital textbooks can help us achieve those goals and ensure that California's students continue to thrive in the global marketplace."
While California is a leader in the move to electronic publishing of all sorts of books, I have to wonder how long expensive printed books will be available to genealogists. It strikes me that e-publishing is much more cost-effective. Arnold Schwarzenegger apparently agrees.
You can read more about Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's plans at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8090450.stm and you can also watch a brief video of the governor's remarks at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/8090861.stm.