As a recent college graduate, it comes as no surprise to me that several U.S. universities are attempting to incorporate Apple’s iPad into their curriculums. Despite the failure of similar experiments with Amazon’s Kindle, and the fact that some schools banned the iPad a few months ago for seriously undermining their WiFi networks, the schools in question are willing to give the device another chance.
They claim the iPad will cut textbook costs because digital versions of the required reading are available for substantially lower costs than their printed counterparts. This sounds nice, but it’s important to keep in mind that these figures are based on the assumption that students would be buying brand new books; I didn’t know a single student who purchased new texts from the campus bookstore unless they’d exhausted all other options. Many students by used textbooks from their peers or on-line from sites like ebay, Amazon, and half.com. Even the campus bookstore tried to entice students by offering previously owned reading material and their price gouging was nothing short of infamous. So the idea that buying a $600 device plus the costs of digital downloads will save students money when a semester’s worth of used books will set students back, oh, about $600 is absolutely ludicrous.
The press releases are also gushing over the prospect of students not having to carry around heavy backpacks along with their cumbersome laptops, which makes me wonder what planet these people are living on. It’s as if the iPad were literally the only machine capable of downloading e-books. The schools could, for about the same cost, provide their students with netbooks equipped with word processing programs, OneNote, and Powerpoint. And some readers may be surprised to learn that a regular old netbook is fully capable of downloading an e-book. The fine folks at CNET did an excellent job of explaining why netbooks are far superior to iPads; I strongly suggest college administrators do some reading of their own on this subject. I certainly hope I’m not the only person who finds it odd that institutions of higher learning would want their students to rely on a device created solely for entertainment purposes while in the classroom. Ordinary laptops are distracting enough; handing college kids machines marketed as high tech toys sends the wrong message entirely.
Of course, since it’s only been 7 months since I graduated, I know what’s really going here. Just about every student in America is familiar with a company called eFollet because these people have a monopoly on campus bookstores. They also happen to have a lucrative contract with Apple, which I suspect is the real reason why students are being force fed tablets instead of a product they might actually find useful for things not related to Facebook. Stuff like, I don’t know, learning perhaps?