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Students and e-readers

Professors may be moving toward e-text books for their students, but students are not yet using e-readers to access those books.

The same poll that I cited in my last entry in this space -- produced by the Educause Center for Analysis and Research -- shows that only 16 percent of undergrads have an e-reader. That's up 4 percentage points from last year, though, so the growth is so-so.

That is not the case for the growth in ownership of tablets, which is up 15 percent year over year, and smartphone ownership, which rose 14 percent year over year.

Today, nearly 90 percent of undergrads have a laptop, and 76 percent have a smartphone.

Nearly 60 percent of them have three or more Internet-capable devices.

That tells you something about what they are spending money on, doesn't it?

Students using e-books

College professors are starting to use e-books in their classes more frequently.

That's according to a survey conducted by the Educause Center for Analysis and Research. Twenty-six percent of undergrads said they did not use an e-book in class. But 35 percent said they used e-books in one class, and 22 percent said they used an e-book in a few classes.

Texts in digital form should certainly be cheaper to produce and distribute. So, that's a big advantage, given the other high prices attached to getting a degree these days.


The fix is (not) in

Want to fix American public education?

Give every child a tablet computer!


Give every child emotional maturity instruction!


Give every child a well-paid teacher!


Well, what, then?

The New York Times Magazine devoted its pages to education on Sunday, and those suggestions stand out from others given by various "experts" in the articles.

None really resonated with me, though, like the comment piece that did not make it into the magazine but that was published on Page 5 in the Editorial section of the regular edition.

James J. Heckman begins with this sentence: "What's missing in the current debate over economic inequality is enough serious discussion about investing in effective early childhood development from birth to age 5." And then he makes his case.

Heckman is right. In another life as a journalist and community volunteer I had the good fortunte to be among a small group of people who got to see brain imaging research on young children that showed the effects of things like being read to, being held, being loved, being talked to. I became and remain convinced that early childhood education is critically important -- more important than anything else we could spend money on.

Instead, though, we are busy cutting Head Start and other programs for poor children.

A guy I knew once left me with a phrase I'll never forget: "It's a poor bird that dirties its own nest."

We are dirty birds indeed.

E-book prices: Way too high

New data from the Urban Libraries Council show the outrageous prices libraries have to pay publishers for e-books.

They just published a two-page report on the subject, noting that none of the six largest publishers sell or license e-books for public libraries to access in the same way we do print books. "Three have adopted pricing policies that make e-books more expensive than print editions," the Council notes, even though the materials cost to publish an e-book is near zero.

The Council gives an example, the price to buy Justin Cronin's "The Twelve." Print edition: $15.51. E-book cost on Amazon: $9.99. Cost to library: $84.

The Council's conclusion is dead-on: "Publishers' inequitable practices hurt the communities and constituents who depend on their public libraries to provide unrestricted access to information."

Save a few bucks

If you haven't checked out the services you can link to at our catalog website, you are leaving money on the table.

You may not be interested in taking classes on various software programs or in searching for a job or reading a free magazine online, but you might be interested in the goodies available via our World Book link.

With your free library card, you get access through World Book to a whole wide world's worth of daily newspapers, including The New York Times digital edition, the American-Statesman digital edition and the Houston Chronicle digital edition. In the physical world, you would pay to have that access.

And that's just one aspect of what World Book online offers.

Do yourself a favor: check it out.