As you may know, I'm a student at a college in Austria (officially it's called HLW - Höhere Lehranstalt für wirtschaftliche Berufe, but no one I know can translate that into nice english, so...). Now, Apple has recently announced that it is entering into the textbook market with iBooks 2. Personally I think this is really cool and has some really cool advantages for pupils, but I also think that this will not be used in austrian school for at least another 50 years.

But why?

Well, you see, the problem is, that switching from paper-textbooks to digital ones is a huge undertaking.

  • First, it means that either the authors themselves or the publisher agree with Apple to distribute their books on a 30% cut. Especially the publishers will not like this very much. And for the authors, well either they signed a contract with a publisher to not do the publishing themselves or they just can't do it (they are authors, not designers and computer experts).
  • For now, we'll just assume that all books the teachers need are available on the iBook Store. The next problem will be that each student would have to have his own iPad. Or the school would have to offer free iPads for the pupils. I don't think this is going to happen as our school already struggles to have one PC in every classroom (remember, I'm on a private school, you'd think they have enough money for something like that). Even if the school would have the money they wouldn't buy iPads. iPads are only produced by Apple. I think school in Austria don't like Apple. No school I know of has at least one Mac. (Okay, well. Our school does. An eMac G4. Without display, keyboard and mouse.) Also, it would mean they are locked in with Apple. They can't just switch to a different vendor. They would have to stick with Apple. As far as I know this is a no-go for austrian schools.
  • Now, let's assume that all books are digitally available and each student has an iPad. Sadly, there are still some things that just scare the schools away. iPads are computers. Computers need electricity. Computers can break, especially the iPad with it's glass surface. It's clear the old-school paper-textbooks win that race.
  • And theres the main problem: the teachers. Sadly, most teachers I know can't even connect to a shared network-drive. So, they will never, ever make their own scripts available on the iBookstore nor will they use the digital text-book. Also, teachers don't trust kids. Let me explain this: If all kids have iPads, at least one will be browsing the net or play a game. With paper-textbooks this can't happen. It's also the reason why they made the internet for iPhones really slow in our school. Technically cell phones aren't even allowed in our school.
  • Apples textbooks are also designed for something I like to call 'active learning'. The student does something and by doing so he learns something. That's how I learned coding and I really like this type of learning. Sadly, most teachers use 'passive learning'. The teachers stands in front of the class, says something, all students try to understand that and then the teacher moves on. I don't like this approach. It's just stupid to read out SQL-statements in front of 23 pupils and hope that all of them now know how SQL works. That's just not the way teaching should work.


That's why I think digital textbooks will have to wait for at least another 50 years. But I'd really love to see me proven wrong here. I really wish that my children will be taught using modern technology, be it iPads or the next big thing then.
I really hope I'm wrong.