iPads vs. Textbooks
Over eight million Apple iPads have been sold direct to educational users around the globe (1) as more and more schools are replacing textbooks with iPads. Recent market research indicates that the mobile global education market could be worth $70 billion within six years and predicts that demand for smartphones and tablets could be another $32 billion by 2020. [The New Media Consortium, "The 2012 Horizon Report," (555.7 KB) net.educause.edu, 2012). The switch to iPads makes sense for several reasons: to lighten the load students carry, to allow access to complementary information and to save money. In many ways, textbooks are inferior to iPads for today’s students.
The change is happening
In Nov. 2010, the US Department of Education released its National Education Technology Plan, a detailed blueprint on how schools can improve learning with technology. Among its recommendations is to leverage mobile devices ("the technology students already have") in the classroom. In his Jan. 2011 State of the Union address, President Obama said, "I want all students to be able to learn from digital textbooks." On Feb. 1, 2012, the US Department of Education and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in collaboration with several tech organizations, released a downloadable "Digital Textbook Playbook" to "encourage collaboration, accelerate the development of digital textbooks and improve the quality and penetration of digital learning in K-12 public education." [Federal Communications Commission, "Digital Textbook Playbook," (2.55 MB) www.fcc.gov, Feb. 1, 2012)
The American Association of Publishers says that the average net unit price of a K-12 print textbook was $65 in 2010.  A 2005 report by Congress' Government Accountability Office found that print textbook prices nearly tripled from 1986 to 2004, rising at twice the rate of inflation.  A report from the Student Public Interest Research Group found that textbook wholesale prices have risen nearly four and a half times the rate of inflation from 1990-2009.  Digital textbooks on average cost 50-60% less than new print textbooks. Tablets in the United States cost on average $489 in 2011, $386 in 2012, $343 in 2013, and are projected to cost $263 in 2015.  However, implementation costs for e-textbooks on iPad tablets are 552% higher than new print textbooks in an average high school, and the annual cost per student per class with tablets is $71.55 vs. $14.26 for print textbooks. [Lee Wilson, "Apple's iPad Textbooks Cost 5x More Than Print," (193 KB) educationbusinessblog.com, Feb. 23, 2012] This difference is due to additional costs associated with building wi-fi infrastructure, training teachers and administrators how to use the technology, and annual publisher fees to continue using e-textbooks.
According to an Apr. 2012 peer-reviewed study in Archives of Disease in Childhood, the average weight of a student's backpack is 15.4 pounds (an...