With the recent unveiling of Apple's iPad, which looks like an oversized iPhone, some publications have begun to speculate that the new touch screen, keyboard-free netbook will also double as a textbook.
The reason for the speculation is that the iPad will feature an iBookstore along with its iBooks application, which will allow users to download and then read books on their device. If that sounds like something you've already heard of, you're right. The new app could make the iPad a competitor to Amazon's Kindle electronic book reader.
And bringing a digital device into the classroom is nothing new, either. Last year, Amazon began attempts to integrate the Kindle DX, a larger version of the original Kindle, into the classroom. It gave away a couple hundred of the electronic readers to college students, with mixed results.
According to an article by Jessica Mintz of the Associated Press, while students liked that the Kindle DX allowed them to access a number of textbooks in one device, some students missed the old-fashioned method of notetaking and dog earing books. Professors found it hard to direct students to the proper page numbers in textbooks because the Kindle DX doesn't number pages, and students can choose the size of the text on each page, potentially creating a different number of pages.
Will Apple's iPad be able to overcome some of the Kindle DX's hurdles in gaining wider use in schools? And will readers prefer the iPad screen for reading compared with the Kindle's screen, which was designed to be easy on the eyes? That remains to be seen. For now, some of the major publishers have already started working on developing iPad applications for study help, but no official word on the actual texts being converted for the iBookstore.
With the cost of the iPad and the Kindle DX both inching toward $500, even if the texts are cheaper than the hard copies, it is hard to say whether students and parents will want to invest in the products. Many students already have MP3 players and schools have invested heavily in netbooks and computers. Is the technology compelling enough for them to spend more money to get the devices?