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Topic Title: Proliferation of E-Readers: what does it mean for education?
Topic Summary: Consumer electronics show features at least 7 new systems
Created On: 01/10/2010 12:16 PM
Status: Post and Reply
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01/10/2010 12:16 PM
Wow! So, I guess everyone is expected to carry an e-Reader gadget along with their laptop, cellular phone, and iPod!
That seems to be at least one implication of the mad rush to market of all the Kindle-like devices showing up at the consumer Electronics show this January. For a rundown, check out this Wall Street Journal Article:
More Makers Jump Into the E-Reader Fray by Geoffrey A. Fowler
For gadget lovers there is certainly no lack of innovation in these devices, as limited as they are for practical purposes. The Que is the latest entry from Plastic Logic, the company that provides the technology for the Kindle. The eDGE from Entourage Systems has also received press because it features two screens - one with eInk ala Kindle and one with LCD like your laptop or phone - in a foldout design. Samsung is jumping in with readers that feature handwriting recognition - like the tablet computers many feel could play a bigger role in education if done properly.
Then, of course, the backdrop to all this is rumors of the "iPad" coming from Apple - expected to be announced in a few weeks. While I have not received a briefing on this device - which is apparently under the tightest non-disclosure - I think we can all guess that this will be something like an overgrown iPod that can deal nicely with commercial / popular print media in some digital format. See more thoughts on the "iPad" and its potential impact here from Business Week:
Five Ways Apple's Tablet May Change the World by Ben Kunz
What does all this mean for those of us grappling with technology in education?
Well, that depends on how well these devices will be able to accommodate educational applications and scenarios. As I have summarized elsewhere in these forums, not very well at this point in time. These devices are mostly turning out to be something good for tinkerer faculty who want to distribute pdfs - and even that hasn't turned out so well so far due to technical limitations. We have certainly had the obligatory early pilots - just like we had with the iPod - and with about the same results - no clear advantage/benefit over existing laptop computers.
That said, I am excited that we will find one or two suppliers in the mix that want to really work with the education industry to meet our needs. I don't know who that will be yet. It will almost certainly not be Apple or Amazon as the more direct consumer pull a provider of these devices has the least likely they are to cater to the needs of a specific segment like education. One must understand that the "end game" here is (perhaps obvious) is the sale of the content. In my past life in the semiconductor world we used to say: "$10 of chips equates to $100 in devices and $1000 in services." What this means is that the chips in your phone or e-Reader can eventually be produced at scale for $x0 and that there is then typically a 10x multiplier on the cost of the device and another 10x multiplier on the consumer services cost (like the subscription fees for your cell phone or the content/other fees associated with your e-Reader). Organizations like Amazon and Apple feel they can reach the education "users" through the consumer market - and that through that reach they can compel the content providers to "play on their platform."
Since in education we would like a more standards-based approach, we are going to have to find some wiling hardware providers that work with organizations like ours - IMS Global Learning Consortium - and the educational publishers, eBook providers, bookstore operators, and educational application providers sitting around our table. The good news is that with the proliferation of hardware device suppliers we will almost certainly be able to accomplish this. It is only a matter of time. The other good news is that the educational publishers have enough resources to make this happen with the specific goals of education in mind.
So, stay tuned . . . .
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