Don’t judge a book by its cover

Jennifer Proffitt is a senior journalism major and Editor-in-Chief of The Journal

The next generation book is here. Gutenberg may be turning over in his grave to consider the once great printing press is rapidly being replaced by the e-book.
The Central School District in Park Hills, Missouri is attempting to make the jump from classic textbooks to e-readers. The school district’s hope is to go exclusively to Kindles, the e-reader offered by Amazon, by the 2011-2012 school year.
I am the proud owner of a Kindle. I got one as a Christmas present in 2009. It cost less than the district’s estimated cost of $380. Books for my Kindle were much cheaper. Now, unfortunately, publishers have caught on and started charging the same price for an e-book as a typical paperback.
Central remains optimistic about its campaign to get their e-readers. I would like to offer a few reality checks for the administrators in Park Hills.
First: The big plan for procuring these e-readers is by donations from electronic stores and money from unassuming parents.
Apparently the district believes that in just six months that it can procure enough Kindle DX’s to supply one high school, a middle school, two elementary schools and one school for behavioral problem students. That’s a total of six schools with 2,046 students. That’s more than a $750,000 cost that the school is asking its community to shoulder. Let’s face it; the Kindles the district is asking for are expensive. In a time where jobs are scarce and the economy ain’t so great, no one has the $400 just lying around to fund one Kindle, let alone hundreds.
This isn’t even taking into consideration any damage to the books when you give them to a group of teenagers and children.
This leads me to my second point. When do they expect these kids to read the books stored on the Kindle? I barely let other people touch my Kindle, let alone take it home with them where it might get broken, damaged, stolen or lost. So, I hope that the administrators in Park Hills buy lots of insurance for their 2011 goal, because they’re going to need it. The school district is simply not realistic in its goals for the next school year.
In an article published on the KSDK website, school superintendent, Desi Mayberry argues that the e-books will save the district “a lot of money each year on textbooks.” Out of curiosity I looked up my own algebra book from high school, it cost my school $52 and a similar book on the Kindle would cost $18. So, Mayberry is right.
Eventually, the Kindles will pay for themselves but it will be a long, long time before that will happen. The only way I can really see this working for the school district is beyond the average textbook and using it in English classes.
The classic books we study in American Literature can be found for free on Amazon. In the past few months I’ve downloaded “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “Tom Sawyer” by Mark Twain and “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen all for free.
It’s nice and pretty convenient when I’m trying to brush up on some of my old favorites but in the form of a textbook? Word problems were hard enough back then, now Central School District expects students to do them on the 4.75 x 3.5 inch screen that the Kindle provides. This brings me to my final point in my campaign against Park Hills’ futile efforts to go electronic.
When I was in high school, it was hard enough for me to crack open my books and calculate some math problems, study the latest war in my American History book or try to absorb some biological terms. Now teachers expect this to be done on miniscule screen of some expensive equipment?
If I were back in high school, I’m not going to lie; I would be excited about the prospect of getting such innovative equipment. Going electronic means that students can no long doodle in the margins of books, take notes easily about the text by underlining in pencil or trying to work out math problems on the page.
I love my Kindle. I have hundreds of books on it and plan on adding more in the years that I have it. But it just isn’t practical to expect to get such expensive and impractical equipment for schools just to cut a few corners.
I survived using old textbooks and I think a few more generations can too.

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