Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. ~ John Dewey

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http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51Wfzh%2BZq%2BL._SL500_AA280_.jpg  If you haven’t heard, Amazon has announced the Kindle DX. A 9.7 inch Wireless reading device with a larger screen made for reading textbooks and newspapers.

Now this is all great news for technology and e-books. But as I listened to the TWIT podcast episode 194 they talked about what this device really is about.

More important than the size of this device is that starting with the DX it will allow people to upload and view PDF files.

Now this might not seem like a lot but as they said on TWIT and what I agree with is that Amazon has just opened the door to a whole new round of piracy and have backed publishers into a corner to force textbook to be created in the Amazon Kindle format.

How so? Well let us pretend for a second we’re in college and you are trying to save that $110 for something more important than a textbook (in college there are many things more important than a textbook 🙂 ). What if you and your buddy could split the cost of the textbook, use one of the scanners in the school, scan the book to PDF and then put it on your Kindle? What if students from other universities did the same and then shared those files using Bit Torrent or P2P Networks basically giving the book away for free.

Or how about this….most textbooks are in PDF format before they are actually printed. Much like pirated DVDs it takes one person to post the PDF of the book on the web for download to sidestep the publishers and give that content straight to students.

Why hasn’t this happened already? Apple created the iTunes store which with the #1 MP3 player the iPod created both a need (music) with a want (iPod).

Amazon has just done the same thing. The need (textbooks, books, newspapers, etc) now has the wanted hardware device…the Kindle.

Amazon has just created a whole new round of piracy.

So if you are a textbook publisher…or any publisher for that matter what are your choices?

A) Continue to pretend that that Kindle does not exist and continue with your model of creating traditional textbooks. Then try to track down and stop piracy through the courts (because it worked so well for the music industry).

B) Embrace that media and textbooks have changed that this is the start of an evolution of textbooks and content, and start creating ways for students to purchase their books in Kindle format. Making it easier for them to purchase a book rather than to try and search for it illegally (exactly what iTunes did for the music industry).

Has Amazon just changed the game? Will textbook publishers be able to wrap their heads around this fast enought to change their modle?

Even the New York Times after knowing that they could save money by giving everyone a Kindle, can’t seem to fully wrap their head around the change.

The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and The Washington Post to Launch Trials Offering Kindle DX to Subscribers Who Live in Areas Where Home Delivery is Not Available

I won’t expect the New York Times to just turn off the printing presses tomorrow, but why not give people the choice? They obviously see this as a way to get more subscribers rather than admit that their subscriber base is changing.

Old business models are hard to change…we know this all to well in education. It’s not until they are forced to change that they actually do. It’s not until these businesses are actually backed into a corner where they are loosing money that they decide to change. Can we keep this from happening to education? Or will education as a system follow the same pattern? Ride their business model of how to educate kids to the point that the kids (customers) just don’t show up anymore. Only then will we see real change. Only then will there really be a reason to change education. Until then…what we’re doing is good enough and there isn’t enough pressure from virtual schools or other educational methods to make the model change. In other words what we got is good enough for now…why change.

One thing is for sure. When you work with a powerful team like Tara and Kim you have conversations that end up turning into a lot of blog posts. 🙂

I have a sticky note I keep on my desk with ideas. I have an idea book that I keep in my backpack, and I have thoughts in my head that keep me awake at night. All ideas and thoughts that poor Tara and Kim have to listen to whether they want to or not. 😉

At a team meeting, with the above mentioned, a couple weeks ago we got on the topic of books. Now I’m sure I’m going to get some push back on this one, but I’m hoping it helps me to frame what I’m thinking (and it might be wrong) a little clearer…so please….feel free to push back.

Up until recently books are what we have known. They were the holders of knowledge, they were the all mighty, the all knowing. If you wanted to know something you went to a book. If you wanted to drift off into a fantasy world, you read a book. If you wanted to heart felt story…you could find it in a book. It a book didn’t have the answer you went to a divine power.

Today….we just go to Google

Books are great. I love them on planes, on the beach and by the pool. Yes, I think books have a niche in today’s world. I just think it’s smaller then what we believe it to be.

Simple questions:

When was the last time you read a book?

When was the last time you read a web page?

When was the last time you read a letter addressed to you in the mail? (A real hand written letter)

When was the last time you read an e-mail?

When was the last time you looked up a phone number in the phone book?

When was the last time you looked up a recipe in a recipe book?

When was the last time you used an encyclopedia?

When was the last time you went to a book before the web for non-fiction/relevant information?

When was the last time you used an IM client (chat)?

Now, take these questions and go ask them to your class, to a kid on the street, or the kid sitting next to you. Are the answers the same? Different? Why?

In a world of niche markets I believe that books have a place, but I think we need to take a step back and find where that place is. I’ve been asking these same questions to myself the past couple of weeks. Then I walk into classrooms to see students reading books for hours on end.

Now, I have nothing against this, just that I have a feeling that the skill of reading a book is practiced much more than say the skill of reading a chat or reading a web page. Yet we spend more time in society today reading chats, web pages and e-mails than we do books. Now I don’t have any research to support this (please add links if you find some) but I have read the Long Tail (audiobook version) and understand that newspaper subscriptions have been in a steady decline. That public libraries are seeing less and less book check-outs and more people coming to use the computers. I witnessed this particular one this summer in a 4 hour visit to the local public library because they had free WiFi. Of the 20 people in the library only one (a seven year old) was browsing the books. Everyone else was there for the free WiFi or to use the library computers.

I do believe that books are still important to our society today, although I do see them evolving with devices like the Kindle. But until that becomes mainstream paper is still the way to go. There is something in holding a paper book, the way it bends, smells, and reads on a sandy beach that just can’t be replaced with my Palm.

At the same time I see a growing disconnect between what and how we are teaching students to read and where we spend our time reading. Are our classrooms changing with the times? Should we be allowing forcing students to learn to read a web-page, an e-mail, a chat? Should we force them like we force them to sit and read a book for 30 minutes of SSR a day to do the same with digital print?

Are we doing this in our classrooms?

Is this a priority?

Are we doing our students a disservice?

Is all of this over stated because students will learn these skills in spite of us and our education system?

OK…your turn!

(I have to link to Mark Ahlness’ SSR 2.0 post every time I talk about this. Cause over a year later, I’m still thinking about this!)