A local news story interested me and applies directly to past articles and comments in this newsletter. A private school in Florida is switching from printed books to eBooks on iPads for several reasons. One major reason is to save money. At the beginning of the next school year, each student will be given an Apple iPad. Most all textbooks needed by the student will be downloaded and stored on the iPad.
When I have written about the use of eBooks in the past, a number of newsletter readers have questioned the economics. Comments have been posted that questioned the ability of poorer families to afford the expense. The recent news story seems to answer those questions.
The news story involves a private school where students and their parents must purchase the books themselves. However, the economics involved should apply to public and private schools alike. After all, someone always has to pay for all textbooks, whether the expense is paid by parents or taxpayers.
In the local case, students and their parents have paid $700 per year for textbooks for each student in recent years. The school now plans to continue with most of the same books, only now in electronic format instead of on paper. For the first year, the school is waiving its annual $700 textbook fee and reducing its tuition and other fees by another $700. However, the big savings will occur year after year as students and parents will have to pay less for textbooks.
The text book publishers have agreed to supply the books electronically, and prices will be about $300 per student per year. The huge price drop is justified because there are no printing costs and the distribution costs are close to zero. The textbook publishers and the authors still expect to make about as much profit as before.
iPads normally cost $500. However, Apple offers a discount to educational institutions and probably also offers an additional discount if you purchase a large quantity of iPads. The bottom-line cost of iPads mentioned in the news story was less than $500 each.
The school administrators also budgeted money for iPad replacements due to theft, loss, or damage. As a result, the school administrators expect to spend about $500 per student for the iPads in the first year plus $300 per student every year for the textbooks.
The real payback occurs in subsequent years. The school administrators are planning on a three-year life expectancy for each iPad before it needs to be replaced by newer technology. The bottom line is that continuing with printed textbooks was expected to cost $2,100 per student over the next three years. Prices for the first year at University Christian School will be skewed because of the one-time waiver of textbook fees. However, in future years, students and parents can expect to pay about $500 for an iPad or a similar device once every three years plus $300 per year for electronic textbooks.
Switching to iPads will cost $1,400 per student every three years instead of today's textbook expense of $2,100 every three years.
Those expenses assume that prices won't change. Of course, prices always change.
Historically, printed textbook prices have increased most every year. The prices for technology solutions, such as iPads, have decreased most every year. School administrators expect to save even more money starting in the fourth year as they find modern technology replacements at that time. The expected announcement of the iPad 3 later this year could also reduce the current cost of the iPad 2.
Of course, iPads have many uses beyond that of ebook readers. Those additional uses will be available at no extra charge. School administrators will save even more money as word processors replace paper, encyclopedias are accessed electronically, homework assignments are distributed by email, and even ill or bedridden students attend classes remotely. Of course, there won't be much need for heavy backpacks either. The total expense reductions will be difficult to measure, but the savings obviously will exceed $250 per year per student.
University Christian’s educators don’t view tablet technology as an accessory; they see iPads as a complete “learning management system.” “Not only do we want every student to have one of these, but we want every student to own one of these,” Nevins said. “We want them to be able to take it home, we want them to be able to work from it, that they learn and they master and then they take with them into college.”
I will suggest that the switch to ebooks is inevitable for many applications. Textbooks are simply one application that is easier to implement than some of the others because youngsters easily adapt to changes in technology. However, all reference books, including encyclopedias, dictionaries, and many genealogy books could make the switch today and become available for less money than what we are used to paying. Other books undoubtedly will become popular as students and adults alike become accustomed to ebooks. Amazon.com already sells more ebooks than printed books (see Amazon's announcement at http://goo.gl/ihsVf), and that trend is certain to continue elsewhere.
For more information, you can read the news story about the University Christian School's switch to ebooks in an article by Topher Sanders published on Jacksonville.com at http://goo.gl/gM1w0.
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