VELLPUBLOG: CONTINUING OUR EDUCATION

Ah, September! Summer’s coming to an end. Classes are beginning again. Maybe it’s time we ALL went back to school, started thinking about education from a new perspective, and got ready to make some radical changes for improvement along the way.
From our vantage point at Vellum Publishing, Inc., that means, “How can digital books and Kindles play a significant role in the teaching/learning process?”
The answer leads to our Vellum Fantasy for the new millennium: no more bookbags or backpacks in schools. This, of course, is predicated upon the wild supposition that textbook publishers, Amazon, and the educational community could all agree to forge a Utopian academic future -- one that already has inroads in colleges, but has not had a chance in tax-funded public education. This possibility presents many questions. How would the lives of students and teachers change? How would educational institutions be affected? What would have to happen to make the Complete-Curriculum-Collection-in-your-Kindle days a reality?

EXPECTATIONS & REQUIREMENTS FROM ESSENTIAL PARTIES
1. PUBLISHERS: the digitizing of literature and recent texts for sale at the lowest possible prices.
2. AMAZON: discontinued/refurbished/traded-in/donated B/W Kindles at the lowest possible prices.
3. EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS: reorganized purchasing channels, IT support, and inventory control measures for devices and e-books.
4. STUDENTS: open-minded acceptance of older technology for a new educational thrust.
5. TEACHERS: hard work and patience to implement the attempt to bring the classroom experience into the 21st century.

IMPORTANT STEPS
1. Negotiations must be completed among educational institutions, publishers, and Amazon so that agreements are reached concerning rights, payments, contract duration, and other changes vital to this revolutionary move.
2. To keep costs at the lowest possible level, older B/W Kindle models (especially those that have been refurbished or unsold) should be provided. This would cut down on investment, restrict internet access, and insure that students would be unable to use the devices in class as gaming machines. It would also allow Amazon to reap rewards from older models that, otherwise, would be obsolete.
3. School systems could lend specifically-numbered Kindles to students for their free use during a school year, but they would have to be returned or paid for at the end of the term.

PROS
1. The books for an entire course, an entire school year…or even a school’s complete curriculum…could be held in the palm of a student’s hand. (Neat, huh!) There would be fewer chances for lame excuses about forgetting a text, leaving it on the bus or having it stolen. Not many students would want to pay for the replacement of an older model e-reader and all the books downloaded into it.
2. Text-to-speech would allow the device to recite required material to students as they drove to or from school/work/sporting events or even while they sat in their rooms watching TV or listening to music. Subliminal education sometimes works mysteriously well.
3. Schools would need much less storage space for materials, so smaller facilities could be used and expenditures for currently VERY costly bound texts would be reduced sharply or eliminated.
4. School IT staffs could load all student loaner Kindles with reading matter during the summer months via Manage Your Kindle or other specialized programs.
5. Older Kindles with keyboards might be surprisingly student-friendly because our young people tend to be texters. On some devices, word processing programs can then provide note-taking capability or a writing platform that can upload files to a computer/printer station when paper copies are necessary.
6. Digital books do not require the heavy investments in quality paper, printing, binding and distribution. These savings can be passed on.
7. Federal and local governments as well as organizations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation could be great sources of grant money to get this project started and, hopefully, continued.

CONS
1. Students would probably be lukewarm to using older technology, but the ease and practicality could override this negative aspect.
2. There would be no color illustrations, sometimes needed for science and fine arts examples. These would have to be augmented with classroom displays or projections.
3. Lost, stolen, defective or broken devices would have to be replaced from a school system stock of extra Kindles.
4. Internet access would have to be defeated/disabled/regulated on certain devices. While it could be useful for research purposes, it is subject to abuse.
5. Publishers may agree to digitize only older textbooks, in order to insure the viability of their newest editions.
6. Each class would have to have several spare devices for the use of new students, observers or students who lack their Kindles for some reason.
7. Reader-altered type sizes will make referring to certain chapters or passages difficult. So publishers would have to devise ways for readers to travel quickly and efficiently within a book. Comprehensive indexes and tables of contents must be created so that one can jump easily to the correct page of study. Teachers would often have to refer the students to percentage locations in e-books.

PREDICTION

This is just the “kindling” of an idea that could grow and spread like educational wildfire. Unfortunately, we’re somewhat pessimistic about it’s ever happening. There’s too much inertia and profit at stake in the publishing industry to make it possible at this time. BUT, we at Vellum think it would be pretty terrific if it all could be worked out. Don’t you agree?