Friday, May 8, 2009

tt4t_085 Let the electronic textbook wars begin

It’s Friday, May 8th, 2009 and welcome to episode 85 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. It is final exam week here at Eastern Illinois University and I am just now getting to this weeks podcast episode. This time of year is extremely hectic for teachers as we rush to get everything completed before time runs out on another semester. There have been a couple of blockbuster stories this week and I would like to highlight some very significant developments that have occurred this week related to technology and education.

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First, the Windows 7 Release Candidate became available for general public download on Tuesday of this week. I was able to get this download early in the morning on Tuesday before Microsoft’s servers slowed down because of the massive amount of downloads anticipated. I have installed the release candidate on four older Dell computers and my eee PC netbook with very few problems. Microsoft has said that the release candidate is free to use until June of 2010 with the caveat that the release candidate will begin to shutdown every 2 hours beginning on March 1st of 2010. That effectively gives the public the chance to use the Windows 7 Release Candidate for free for nine months before you will need to buy the official copy once it is released. That is a pretty generous offering from Microsoft as they try to make amends for some of the past mistakes they have made with the previous rollout of Windows Vista. A link is available in the show notes about what’s new in Windows 7.

What’s New in Windows 7

I have been using the Windows 7 beta version since October and have been quite impressed with the changes Microsoft is making. Windows 7 is much more streamlined than Vista as evidenced by the fact that I am running the full version of the Windows 7 Ultimate Edition RC on a netbook with a 1.6 GHz processor and 1 GB of RAM. This combination is as responsive as the older Windows XP operating system that I previously used on this netbook.

The look and feel of Windows 7 is much more polished than Vista and the snappiness of using Windows 7 is very evident in the release candidate. Microsoft has still not announced an availability date for the official release but I will be testing out the release candidate very hard in the upcoming months. You will be hearing more about Windows 7 in upcoming episodes of TechTalk4Teachers so stay tuned.

The other really big news this week was from Amazon as they held a press conference about a new Kindle device called the Kindle DX that is targeted toward readers of newspapers and textbooks. The new DX model is scheduled for general availability later this summer and looks much like the Kindle 2 that came out earlier this year. The main difference is in the size in that the Kindle DX will have a 9.7 inch screen size compared to the Kindle 2’s screen size of 6 inches. The new DX model also supports PDF files natively. Links are provided in the show notes for more information about the Kindle DX model.

Amazon Kindle DX

Here is the Kindle Vision Statement from their press conference earlier this week: "Every book ever printed... in any language... all available in less than 60 seconds." Now that is a vision statement!

Listeners/readers of TechTalk4Teachers might remember that I gave a Kindle 2 review back on episode 79 if TechTalk4Teachers so you may want to review that episode if you are interested in learning more about the Kindle 2. The Kindle DX addresses one of my complaints in that the Kindle DX has a larger screen size. My other suggestion for improving the Kindle 2 was that it have a color screen but alas the new Kindle DX does not offer color yet. Color, for me, is a must before I think that this device will really take-off and become a viable competitor for traditional textbooks.

The Kindle DX announcement surprised me this week being that it has been less than four months since the Kindle 2 became available to the general public. I have been a bit skeptical of the ebook readers to date because of the small size and large initial expense but the new Kindle DX is getting closer to a model that I believe finally has a chance to revolutionize book publishing, particularly textbook publishing. The expense is still an issue as Amazon has announced a price of $489 for the larger Kindle DX.

I have heard that approximately 40 to 50 percent of the cost of a textbook is in the actual paper and transportation costs of getting the textbook to the end user. With the electronic delivery system that Amazon is providing the opportunity for a 50 percent price reduction is there. Anyone that has purchased a college textbook knows that they are expensive averaging well over $100 per textbook. So the opportunity is there to provide some savings and transition from the dead tree model of publishing to the digital distribution model.

Will this catch on? We will have to wait and see but I do believe that momentum is beginning to build within the publishing industry to move to a digital distribution model and right now Amazon is leading the way.

Another big development this week in the electronic textbook movement was an announcement from the Gov. Schwarzenegger of California. This week Arnold Schwarzenegger announced that California would be the first state in the US to initiate a free open-source electronic textbook distribution model at the high school level. A link is provided in the show notes to the press release and is a sign that electronic textbooks are beginning to be considered as a viable alternative to traditional textbooks and this press release is definitely worth reading. The California Governor has instructed his Secretary of Education to ensure that these resources are available to high school Math and Science classes for the Fall 2009 semester. It will be interesting watching the free open-source proponents of electronic textbooks interact with the for-profit Amazon model that is now developing.

Gov. Schwarzenegger Launches First-in-Nation Initiative to Develop Free Digital Textbooks for High School Students

Technology Pick of the Week
My Technology Pick of the Week this week is related to cell phone technologies as I have been working with college students on using available technologies that many students already have. Most students already have a cell phone and are using cell phone texting services daily. This weeks pick has been around for a while and when I looked back through previous episodes of TechTalk4Teachers I had not mentioned this service before, so here it is. The name of the website is TexttheMob and a link is available in the show notes.


The TexttheMob website allows you to collect audience feedback via cell phone texting or using mobile web browsers for up to 100 participants per question and is currently free. Signup is very easy and in less than 30 seconds you can be on your way to using this service. There are concerns for allowing text messaging services with students so be sure to work with your administration if you plan to use this service with K12 students. This service is also a great addition to meetings where you are trying to gather information from others and can be beneficial for understanding your audience’s knowledge or opinions about a particular topic. If you are using this service please let me know so we can share your story with other TechTalk4Teachers listeners/readers.

That wraps it up for episode 85 of TechTalk4Teachers. Transcripts and show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available at the Eastern Illinois University Instructional Technology Center website at just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you have questions, comments or suggestions please send an email to or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think Gov. Schwartzenegger has the right idea. I think a college should try this. If you could require all students to have the electronic textbooks, wouldn't it save lots of money in the long run for both the student and the college?