Slouching towards electronic textbooks

This morning’s Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, May 5th) fills out some of the details of a rumored “large screen” ebook reader, a device expected to provide a paperless platform for newspapers, magazines, and … academic textbooks.

Geoffrey Fowler and Ben Worthen report:

Beginning this fall, some students at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland will be given large-screen Kindles with textbooks for chemistry, computer science and a freshman seminar already installed, said Lev Gonick, the school’s chief information officer. The university plans to compare the experiences of students who get the Kindles and those who use traditional textbooks, he said. …

Five other universities are involved in the Kindle project, according to people briefed on the matter. They are Pace, Princeton, Reed, Darden School at the University of Virginia, and Arizona State.

The road to e-textsbooks will likely be rough – publishers are reluctant to give up distribution control to Amazon (or Google, or Sony, or Walmart …), campus bookstores are nervous, and students are likely reluctant to abandon the used textbook marketplace.

Geoffrey A. Fowler and Ben Worthen, Amazon to Launch Kindle for Textbooks, Wall Street Journal, MAY 5, 2009.

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