Schools slowly turning to e-books

A school in New Jersey has become the latest in a growing number of schools

taking a close look at online textbooks.

Educational programs, whether online or in the form of CD-ROMs, are

nothing new. But the market has developed much slower than anyone expected,

with educators complaining about the poor quality of content and the fact

that programs often do not fit easily with the curriculum.

A new breed of electronic texts aims to avoid these pitfalls by duplicating

the hard copy texts already approved by state boards of education. The on-screen

text is exactly the same as in the textbook, but provides value-added content

through links within the texts to other online information that can be constantly

updated.

"It's not just an online book, it's a complete program that people can

grow into over time," said Jeff Pennell, marketing communications manager

for Barrett Kendall Publishing. "Though the text itself never changes, we

can constantly update the supplementary links. We have all the other ancillary

products online also, so we can easily update them as tests or student skills

change."

The online program is sold to schools with a hard copy of the textbook

for the same price as the textbook alone. That way, if the server providing

the online service goes down or a home computer isn't available, students

still have the textbook to work from.

Memorial Junior Middle School in Hanover, N.J., joins schools in Texas,

Florida, New Mexico, Indiana, Illinois and Utah that are also using the

online texts. Barrett Kendall hopes to sell to schools in West Virginia

and California next year.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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