When I talk to friends and co-workers about the Kindle 2, they are amazed at the ebook technology, but doubtful that they’ll be using one anytime soon. At a price of $359 (and during a recession), they’re right. They probably will NOT be using an ebook this year. Or next.
But you know who will? Their kids.
According the the US Department of Education, there were approximately 34.9 million children in grades K-8 in public schools in 2008. By 2014, they estimate that number to increase to 37.2 million.
That’s a lot of students. That’s a LOT of textbooks.
According to some Internet sources, it can cost anywhere from $800-$1,000 to give textbooks to students every year. Some sources say an average textbook is about $52. (It’s hard to offer a good credible source. If you have one that supports or disputes this claim, please offer some links.)
So simple math here based on 2014 enrollment estimates:$1,000 times 37 million is $37 billion.
Anyway, kids. Yeah. Expensive, aren’t they?
Kids don’t need paper to get the benefit of the education that’s been written. They need information to get smart. We can give them Internet access, but that’s just one resource.
My Kindle ($359) weighs 10 oz. My laptop ($1,200) is about 5 lbs. That may not be much for me, but it is for a 10-year-old.
In a few years, it’s likely that we’ll see government-issued ebook readers replacing overstuffed backpacks. It may be the Kindle or the Sony e-Reader, but it will probably be some new manufacturer that has big government contracts.
Something more durable and utilitarian. Something that’s less hackable and more controllable than the average PC.
Teachers will assign chapters and reading over the school’s wireless network. Schools will only pay for the chapters they assign. New editions of textbooks will be downloaded directly from the publisher’s website via secure FTP.
Less paper. Less storage space. Less money spent on giving textbooks to 37 million students per year.
Say what you will about public schools, but most people in the US attend these schools. Our country generates a lot of smart people because there are a lot of smart people running and teaching in these schools.
A back of the napkin calculation shows that we may be looking at $37 billion in textbooks in 2014.
You can bet there are school administrators crunching numbers too. And while the economics of first generation ebook readers don’t make sense now, that will soon change. Prices will drop, technology will improve, and the economics will become compellingly obvious.
You may never read books using an ebook reader. But your kids in grammar school? They will.
Links….Not Necessarily Endorsements: