Terminator Nixs Text Books

Further to my post a couple of days ago about Australia’s involvement in a study that is looking at paperless exams, comes a story out of the US where California Governor and former actor Arnold Schwarzenegger is looking to do away with textbooks.

In a cost-cutting measure that could save the cash-strapped state hundreds of millions of dollars, Schwarzenegger has mooted the idea that with most kids attuned to the likes of Facebook and Twitter, then taking that technology a step further by phasing out text books in favour of a electronic equivalent is a natural progression.

I think it is not only a good idea, but about time it happened. Schwarzenegger wondered aloud why we are still using 15th century technology (printing based on the Gutenberg Press), in a world where most households have at least one computer and a range of other portable devices.

There are other tangible benefits too, and not just to help kids learn. As well as getting instant updates on a subject and having information literally at your fingertips, there is no longer a need to go to libraries to study (which, to be fair, could be a bad thing too – some kids might be tempted to do less constructive things on their computers when they should be studying), or to lug around heavy text books, and think of the number of trees that might be saved, which would make the Greenies happy.

There are a couple of downsides I can see. Text books tend to be pretty comprehensive, whereas a lot of online content sometimes tends to be once-over-lightly in nature. And if you were to make a comprehensive textbook available online, its pure size might cause navigation issues, especially for technophobes. Also, text book publishers would not give out their content for free, so there would be some cost involved. Of course the other big issue would be peripheral people who work in the printing and forestry trades could be a little put out. But, over all, I think the Governator is onto something.