Comment on “Arne Duncan calls for textbooks to become obsolete in favor of digital,” Huffington Post, Oct 2.
Remember the old joke about the worker who left the factory everyday with a wheelbarrow full of sand? The guards suspected him of stealing and examined the sand carefully each day. It turned out he was stealing wheelbarrows.
How will the private sector make money from the move to digital texts? The money will come from stealing wheelbarrows: To use digital texts, students need to be connected to the internet. Right now, many are not. (“Still, many districts, already buckling from diminished budgets, don't have the bandwidth or the equipment to make digital materials available to every student.”)
Making this happen will cost billions, and it will be a never-ending source of profit: We can be sure that the equipment will be obsolete soon after it is installed, and when the brave new digital texts do not result in academic improvement, technology companies will convince us that the next version, requiring more sophisticated and expensive equipment, will be better.