Apple’s iPad Textbooks Cost 5x More Than Print

From a Publisher’s perspective Apple’s iPad textbook initiative is a decent 1.0 release with promise. I’ve had a few weeks to play with iBooks Author and iBooks2 and discuss them with colleagues. I’ll write about the many positives in future posts.

But there is a worm in this apple. All the sweet promises Apple is making are going to slam headfirst into the funding issue. It will cost a school 552% more to implement iPad textbooks than it does to deploy books. That ain’t happening in THIS economy. The press reports I’ve seen have completely missed this because Apple “hand waved” their way around it.

Update – A follow on post discussion of reader responses is here.

Follow me down into the details where the devil resides….

THINGS DON’T ADD UP (or they do and it is a lot of money…)

There are five components to the cost and we’ll examine each.

ipad textbook vs print textbook

Apple is targeting High Schools so this is the baseline we’ll use. The average high school has 752 students, 43 teachers, and a total budget of $7.7 million (data sourced from NCES).*1
The right way to compare the cost of a textbook and an iText is on an annualized basis per student – this provides the fairest apples to apples (ahem) evaluation. I’ve amortized the various components based on their usual lifespan. I’ve tried to stick to per student per class pricing – this is the most scalable unit of measurement for schools of all sizes.*2
This analysis looks at the economics from a school’s perspective, in the future I’ll address how this new model affects publishers’ business model.

If you want the spreadsheet so you can tweak the variables email me at for a copy.

CONTENT – Advantage Print

At the heart of Apple’s messaging is the idea that at $14.99 an iText is significantly less expensive than a $60 textbook. The nicest way I can think of to characterize this promise is that it is a follicly challenged prevarication.*3 Apple should know better.

When a school buys a $60 textbook today they use it for an average of 5-7 years for a per student cost of about $10. When a school buys an Apple iText it costs them $14.99 per student – per year.

You also have to factor in the teacher edition – I used $200 for a print version and $49.99 for a digital version (this is frequently the most expensive piece to produce in print because of the low number of units created). For large deals publishers often provide a free TE for every 30 student editions purchased – but I’ve handicapped the print by including it at full cost.

The annual content cost per student per class comes out to $10.38 per student for a printed textbook and $15.24 for the digital. The digital version is 34% more expensive.*4
Right out the gate using a true annualized cost Apple’s claims fall apart.

1184809_six_booksMANAGEMENT – Advantage Digital

In both cases there is some management involved in getting the right materials to the right student. We’ll call it $2 a year for a textbook – districts have to catalog it, repair it, and store it somewhere over the summer. On the digital side I used $0.25 for getting the right download code to the right student, this also involves cataloging and has an annual purchase cycle (vs. the 1 time buy for the book). No storage or repair gives digital a huge advantage.

A big plus to bytes vs. dead trees on this score.

DEVICE – Advantage Print

Apple’s price comparison completely ignored the fact that consuming the digital content requires an iPad that the district is obligated to provide. In private schools and Universities the institution can mandate that students bring their own device (BYOD). That doesn’t work in public K12 schools. If the content requires an iPad then the school also has to provide it to make sure there is equitable educational opportunity.

There is a huge upfront cost to doing this and the iPads will also need to be replaced on a regular basis (every 4-5 years). iPads also need service contracts and insurance – teenagers are not known for handling their things particularly well.

I used current pricing from Apple for the low end Wi-Fi only iPad, AppleCare service contract, and an insurance policy from a third party provider (damage, theft, etc.). The annual cost per device is $206, or $163,300 per year for the average high school. Assuming 5 courses this comes out to $43.44 per class per student.

Books are their own device so there is $0 annual additional cost. The device is a pure add-on cost from the district’s perspective.

Yes – because of Moore’s Law these costs will fall with time. But no matter how low they go they will always be incremental over the cost of a book.

1037NETWORK – Advantage Print

Putting an additional 750 devices on a wireless network isn’t a trivial exercise. A school isn’t like an office environment where usage by any one user is fairly random over the course of the day. A school runs on a bell schedule so most of those 750 devices are likely to be hitting the network at the same time. When you are relying on the iPad no network equals no learning – which isn’t acceptable.

A cheap $50 wireless access point from Best Buy isn’t going to hack it in this environment. Schools will need industrial grade access points with load balancing and several other features to handle the spiky volume. These typically run in the $500 range. A school will need about 30 of these to support 800 users (don’t forget the teachers).

I’ve assumed for the purposes of this exercise that the school is fully wired. If a school has to lay cable, punch through walls, etc. that would be on top of my estimates. But I think it safe to say that most high schools have been through that upgrade by now.

In addition to the access points an additional 4-5 T1 lines will be needed to handle the network volume. I’ve assumed 4 lines at an eRate cost of $400 a month/line. This is an informed guess on the bandwidth needs.

All-in the network infrastructure will run about $21,750 a year per school. or $6.94 per student per class. Like the device this is purely incremental on the digital side of the ledger.

I consider this estimate to be very conservative – an actual schools’ costs could be dramatically higher depending on the quality of their existing IT infrastructure.

TRAINING – Advantage Print

Teacher training is a bit complicated, but it bakes down into up-front training and annual tune-ups.

Textbooks are a known entity, schools and publishers have developed pretty efficient mechanisms to getting teachers oriented to a new textbook. The iText adds a need to train teachers on how to incorporate the devices into their classroom practice.

On an annual basis once a teacher has incorporated a textbook into their lesson plans there is very little fine tuning until the book changes. With a digital text the content should update every year requiring tweaks and updates to the teacher’s plans. Current content is a huge advantage for the digital text and one of the prime reasons to consider moving in this direction. But from a budget standpoint it comes with a real cost that can’t be ignored.

I peg the amortized cost of teacher training for a textbook at $1.88 per student per class and the digital text at $6.94. Most of the difference is attributable to the annual updates.


At every level except management the iPad texts are more expensive. The single biggest contributor to the imbalance is the iPad itself, followed by the network. There will be widespread trials over the next couple of years, some of them quite large and visible. But the mass of the market won’t move until there is clear evidence of efficacy and the budget situation for schools improves.

ipad textbook costs

There is a case to be made that an interactive digital experience is a more powerful learning tool and thus worth more, but Apple didn’t really make that claim. We are likely to hear lots of bleating about engagement and how much the kids love to work with these devices. To which educators should respond with “great – where is the objective data on improved outcomes?” There are enough schools deploying the devices now that a preliminary study or two ought to be available. As a long term advocate of ed-tech I hope the data supports the thesis, but until we see the proof, claims along these lines ought to be regarded as aspirational marketing.

If the political will was there on the national level an additional $6.5 billion per year would do the trick. That would be stimulating.


One more thing. The next time some ignorant bloviator refers to “outrageously priced textbooks” remind them that at 6 cents per day a textbook is about as efficient as you are going to get for high quality, well designed, instructionally sound, standards aligned, and globally permissioned materials.

Update – A follow on post discussion of reader responses is here.


*1 Wherever possible I’ve used data from a reputable source and noted that in the spreadsheet. I did have to make a few assumptions (e.g. the lifespan of an iPad). If you want to play with the spreadsheet yourself to tweak the variables please email me at and I’ll send you a copy.

*2 It is complicated because some of the costs are per student (the text), some per teacher (training), and some per school (networks). Breaking these back down to a per student basis is the only common denominator that works well.

*3 Bald lie
*4 I didn’t factor in student mobility, but since the iText is registered to the student’s Apple ID not the school’s once a student uses a download code it expires. If that student leaves during the school year the district can’t simply pass the iText along to the new student the way they would with a book. I think Apple and the publishers will come up with a solution for this so I didn’t think it was fair to include it – but it is a real issue as things stand right now.


30 responses to “Apple’s iPad Textbooks Cost 5x More Than Print”

  1. Jim Schultz says:

    Lee, Thanks for taking the time to examine the current cost structure and the realities in a school. A significant challenge in Career & Technical education is the rapidly changing standards and certifications. This is a pain and keeping a textbook for 5-7 years in an automotive, mechtronics, or health sciences program is problematic.

    Lee Responds – Jim you point out one of the primary reasons schools should consider going to digital texts. I’ll write more about all the positives I see in future posts and this is one of the primary ones.

  2. Could you include a link to the spreadsheet in this post? It would be nice for anyone to be able to verify your calculations. You could easily host the file on Dropbox or Google Docs and post the link.

    Lee responds – I may do that in a future post – good suggestion.

  3. Brian says:

    Fantastic analysis and spot on. Finally, some truth to the movement towards eTexts. While I am all for it, we have to look at it objectively and with ‘real world glasses’ on.

  4. Lisa D. says:

    In the numbers you assume the the books are all $14.99 each. Isn’t that the maximum? Couldn’t some books ultimately be free? And if the iPadss have all of the iBooks installed on them, why would the networks be hit as much as the article suggests? Just playing devil’s advocate.

    Lee Responds: You are correct that $14.99 is a suggested price but it isn’t a maximum. I can see cases where something very specialized has to be priced higher because of the low volume (this is akin to what happens with $200 textbooks in high-ed today – you generally find those in esoteric subjects.

    Some books will be free – but there aren’t any of those today. But the device alone is still several times the cost of the printed books – so even if they were free it would still be more expensive (at todays prices).

    The network issue is based on my own son’s experience having a school supplied iPad this year – it isn’t so much the text book but once the device is in the classroom it does tend to get used frequently for on-line research etc. I take your point that it may not be entirely fair to load the textbook question with all of that cost since the device will be used for other things.

  5. Nelson Wee says:

    Dear Lee,
    Thanks for this insightful post on EdTech with iPads and iBooks. In Singapore (where I am based), we are also trialing different contents, systems, platforms and screens (PCs, tablets). Your post hit home on 2 areas which current lack scale and requires loss-leading investments in:
    1. Content – new generation multimedia rich contents need to be repurposed on a general country/regional scale, before teachers in individual schools could customize to their own students’ needs.

    2. Device ownership
    Despite being the prevailing market share leader in tablets, iPads will continue wi it’s premium pricing and the government needs to fund the device purchases for students to ensure equality of education (costs here would be prohibitive indeed!) Or cheaper more affordable and stripped down Android tablets could be subsidized for students.

    In terms of management of these devices, a cloud based solution for over the air remote policy management could also be required and this perhaps need to be factored in as well.

    Best regards,
    Nelson Wee

  6. Guy says:

    I appreciate the work but there are very different schools. Gor example the cost in a school implementing a 1:1 program would bipass most of the additional costs.

    There is a great value added in tablets and what they can do and provide to users who will enter the workforce in the 21st century…

    Lee’s Response – That is correct – the networking and training components in particular would probably already be dealt with. Do you have any data on how many schools have real 1:1 initiatives? It was my understanding that it was still a pretty small number but I could be wrong about that.

  7. Phil says:

    Thank you for this. In order to be fully proactive about anything (ie. iPads in Ed) you must know valid arguments against. The big thing for me though is that these iPads make for excellent personal learning devices. iTexts are great, but all the other potential uses to benefit student engagement and learning make the higher cost seem not so bad. Schools should not go into iPads with just textbook elimination in mind. What else will the device provide is the question. iBook author is great too. Allowing teachers to create their own textbooks and update as they choose in order to meet local/state standards as well as keeping current. Career and Technical Ed teachers could benefit from using the authoring tool.

    Lee’s Response – I agree with pretty much everything you mention. I’m a huge fan of the technology myself, but I wanted to make a reality based comparison vs. current practice. I’ll write in the future about all the great stuff one can do. In many ways textbooks are LEAST interesting thing you can do in a classroom with an iPad.

  8. S. Tammik says:

    One easy solution – have parents supply the iPad.

    I know it’s a lot to ask for some families, but as a parent mysefl, what better investment could you make than in your child’s education.

    So parents. Take the burden off the school system and buy your kid an iPad. You might not have money left over soccer or dance lessons, but you’ll be supporting your child where it counts in today’s digital world.

    Ok, that’s my rant!

    Lee Responds – This works well in Private Schools and in Higher Ed – but if a public school district goes there it will only accentuate the digital divide (and they still won’t save any money because the training and network infrastructure still come along with iTexts).

  9. This is really fascinating. Thank you for taking the time to write and research this.

    I sit on the Board of Trustees of a Boston area high school that recently rolled out an iPad pilot program. As someone who works in technology and online, I felt as though the program lacked focus that I felt helpless to provide.

    While the march of the iPad into the education environment seems inevitable (and probably good) there are quite a lot of bugs to work out, as you quite rightly point out.

  10. Felix Valdez says:

    Dear Lee,
    In order to make a decision, it would be nice to compare he benefits vs themcosts of each kind of solution.

    Lee’s Response – Benefits to come in a future post. This one just focused on the economics.

  11. Brian Bainbridge says:

    Dear Lee,
    While I think many aspects of your position are sound, and unless I missed something in the discussion, you fail to take into account that each Ipad will be capable of holding multiple textbooks. Assuming the average student has 10 classes in a school year, your per student/class calculations on management, device, network, and training are considerably less. Furthermore, you assume no cost for storage/repair on the Itext, which is not true because there will be some cost involved. Finally, I have to take issue with your position that teacher training/lesson changes would be a considerable inconvenience to teachers. I don’t know a single “good” teacher that doesn’t change/tweak things every year. In the world that we live in where new discoveries and better information are constantly becoming available, this gives digital a clear advantage.

    Lee Responds – Thanks for the thoughtful response. I did assume that a student was using the same text in the fall as they use in the spring. You are correct – adding different books only makes the comparison even costlier. Feel free to ask for the spreadsheet and you can see the impact of adding 5 more books and 5 more iTexts.

    As for repairs – I did account for that by including insurance and a service agreement. Insurance would include physical damage, less, and theft. Service agreement would cover maintenance.

    I agree completely on teachers wanting to improve their lessons and wholly support that. But it does take time and I wanted to budget for that rather than assume that teachers were donating it for free. You can back that out on the spreadsheet if you don’t think it is a fair addition.

  12. Coriolis says:

    There are serious flaws in the author’s analysis. These stem from the following narrow and erroneous assumptions:
    1. The iPad is an additional technology purchase instead of a replacement of legacy technology. I’ll point at the thousands of netbooks and portables deployed to schools nationwide.

    2. The iPad is an content reader only. The author is ignoring the ability to create content and use the device for curriculum advancement beyond the textbook model, using for apps, as an HD camera, audio recorder, podcaster, and interactive classroom surface, to say the least.

    3. iText = print Text. This is perhaps the author’s biggest error. He is assuming an 8-year old text book, or even a 2-year old textbook has the same value as a dynamic, rich media, up-dateable interactive textbook.

    Lee Responds:
    1. This actually was at the heart of my case – this is incremental spending over todays dollars. Where is the money coming from when districts are slashing everything they can right now to say afloat?

    2. Happy to grant that there are multiple additional uses to which the device can be put to use in. That said, I’ve been using an iPad since it was launched – and can’t be separated from it. As a rich multimedia consumption device it is the best thing I have ever seen.

    But as a content creation device it is marginal. To write anything of any length requires an external keyboard, video editing is clunky, and photo editing is limited. Not to mention that the lack of any file and folder system makes managing any level of content a nightmare.

    3. Read closely – I never assumed any such thing. In fact I explicitly stated that the experience was much richer on the book and that there was real value in the dynamic nature of the content. BUT – no one that I’m aware of has demonstrated yet that it improves outcomes. Before we run off and spend billions of dollars more PER YEAR – perhaps some evidence based research to demonstrate better outcomes is in order.

  13. bebogeen says:

    First of all, I commend Mr. Wilson for his thorough research of this hot topic.

    However, his rationale and thinking that seem to go back to money and money alone only sadden me. It saddens me to realize time and again that education is always so under the microscope for potential irresponsible, “non-research based” spending. I guess I’m forgetting that it’s taxpayers’ money that is “at stake”;… the age-old adage that makes everyone an expert in pedagogy and a veteran with an educational career in the trenches …

    I want to keep this considerably shorter than Mr. Wilson’s text. Suffice it to say that I don’t agree with him. To me he sounds like someone advocating against classroom phones because the old – and proven – intercom system works just as well and is cheaper … or against networkable printers/copiers, beause the old mimeograph is a lot cheaper … and the list goes on.

    No wonder that schools are often seen as “not the real world”. There are too many people that are too vocal about teaching and pedagogy with no classroom experience whatsoever. I can’t imagine what it would be like if I ran an in-depth article in a newspaper or on a website about how I believe in business X employees don’t really need any interactive technology or cutbacks on paper use. But wait, that is the business world, so who’s got a grip on them … no tax money there, so let’s leave those people alone; they can do whatever they want without anyone questioning their technology applications to make their jobs more engaging and productive.

    And as for the 6-cents-per-day textbook remark at the end of Mr. Wilson’s article: please come check out our 6-cents-per-day U.S. History and American Government textbooks that are a static reminder of how we struggle with keeping printed information up to date – even long after it’s outdated, which is after a year or two into the textbook adoption cycle, when school districts know the books will have to last at least another three, four, five, (keep counting) years.

    Lee’s Response – I’m sensitive to your comments – education is not a dollars and cents issue – except that we are right in the middle of firing a whole bunch of teachers because of the pressure on education budgets. I’m just not sure this is the right time to be embracing a more expensive way of teaching that will require more teacher layoffs.

    I’m a long term advocate for technology innovation in the classroom (20+ years). My bio is on the site for details, but I think I’ve got some cred on that score. But technology for technology’s sake is never the right answer – the problem we are solving for has to come first. What I see with so many tech-centric marketers is they start from the technology and go in search of solution.

    If it were up to me I’d give every teacher and iPad and forbid them to use in front of their students for 6 months. Once they are comfortable with what the technology can and can’t do for them they could then start to implement it in meaningful ways into classroom practice. Starting with the textbook is backwards.

    Static books are a real issue and I think US History and Social Studies in general is an area where we could do with a ton more digital original source content rather than textbooks. On the other hand – does basic math evolve that quickly these days? Are the fundamentals of reading changing daily, weekly, annually? There are places it makes more sense than others.

  14. Rod Boyes says:

    Good analysis, Lee. When you get time, look at, we are trying digital access, interactivity, assessments,free PDF summaries,an LMS, plus a db of all graphics that can be cherry picked for lecture purposes. We license sites for $2500. CTE content is Auto Tech, Health Science, Cosmetology and Agriscience will be released this summer.If you want a briefing, let me know.


  15. Steve says:

    I’ve worked in educational publishing for close to 20 years: editor, managing editor, VP operations, publisher, and company owner. From a publisher’s perspective: it’s much costlier to develop i-products. The content acquisition, editing, proofing, etc. costs are the same, whether digital or print, but digital delivery brings in a whole host of technology-related costs. Publishers are for-profit business: if you increase my product costs in one way, one of two things will happen: either I’ll have to raise prices (at least down the line, after “buying” sufficient market share with artificially low prices); or I’ll have to skimp somewhere else–such as on editing and quality assurance. As the saying goes, “there ain’t no free lunch,” after all–so digital delivery, which is more expensive from a publisher’s point of view than print-based delivery, will impose its own costs elsewhere. (Before someone says that there’s an offset from not having to print: printing is effectively dirt cheap in volume–the printing cost is generally 5 – 10% of the pre-shipping & handling product cost; the savings from not printing, in my experience, is more than outweighed by the additional technology-related costs.)

  16. Chamby says:

    I’d like to raise two points.

    1. If one looks at the research and meta research over the years with the introduction of new technologies in education, invariably, the results show no significant learning difference. Obviously, with every new technology there is the sincere belief that it’s different this time, and I happen to believe this is the case with mobile devices, but I won’t be surprised when the long-term results show that there is no significant difference with the iPad and learning.

    2. When a school purchases a textbook from a major publisher for $60 a student, it is always accompanied by a huge variety of ancillary materials (i.e. worksheets, videos, games, animations, simulations, readers, assessments, online tools etc). This practice has been going on for decades. Rarely does one just get a textbook. It’s my opinion that the value of all these ancillary materials far outweigh the value of the textbook and in a worst case scenario, this may put the cost of the actual textbook more in the $5-10 range. One could argue that the iPad offers a lot more as well but at least the materials that come with the textbook are 100% dedicated to learning the content of that textbook.

  17. Mark G says:

    I think you have brought up and addressed some very important issues with the cost of using iTextbooks. Thank you!
    One factor you have left out, and I hope I’m not repeating another post. Schools also purchase computers for students. In the school I worked at several years ago, there were 5 computers per classroom and a 24 computer lab (classroom) for approximately 400 students.This was an elementary school not a high school, but I’m fairly certain that many high schools have similar set-ups.

    Computer labs require space (which also equals money) and additional personnel to run (although its probable that these people will be taking on the maintenance of iPads). These computers get upgraded every 5 years. Additionally, there is the cost of software for these computers, but perhaps that price evens out when you factor in apps that will be purchased too.

    Its not just a textbook a school will be replacing, its also computers, cameras, video cameras and other digital devices. I think you could research this area and factor in those costs as well.

    Finally, and this might be a side issue, how often do these computers just sit at the back of the classroom not being used, so I think there should be a value placed on time used.

    On a seperate topic, you factor in insurance and other costs in the Device section. But fail to price in the cost of lost books, or books beyond repair. Yes you factor in $2 in the management section, but does that reflect the percentage of books that are replaced (repurchased). Apples to apples.

    Lee’s Response – Excellent point on replacing the computer lab – if that were possible. That said there are many things (spreadsheets?) that just don’t work on tablets yet so I don’t see that happening any time soon.

    Yes the $2 does cover replacement books – in fact what many districts do is buy some extras up front – so you could feather a few more in there in the assumptions – perhaps 1-2 per class. But it doesn’t change the overall outcome by much.

  18. Jim Bowler says:

    Thanks for sharing this and I do agree. One can quipple with some of the assumptions on class size, lifetime value, etc., but the basic point is clear. eBooks will not be a large cost savings vs. texts (especailly at $14.95) overall and once you add in the device cost and acquisition it is much more expensive.

    That being said tablet devices can be a great tool in the classroom and will an important part of the ecosystem that publishers will need to address.

    Lee’s Response – Spot on.

  19. James says:

    Good analysis. However I think it may be exceptionally generous to assume these devices will last 5 years. Also- only one company making and supplying the devices? Not a good situation. In addition I can only imagine teachers running from desk to desk trying to figure out why video (or whatever) won’t pull up. I do believe in tech. But I think it has a long way to mature before it replaces print books.

  20. David Bolton says:

    Thank you for this informative article. One other hidden cost involved in deploying ANY Apple device on a school network-Apple Updates!
    4-5 T1’s won’t cut it when many of the iPad updates are in the hundreds of MB’s. To offset that, an internal Apple Update/Task Server would be needed. As such, the server would pull updates from Apple when they become available, and subsequently avail those to the LAN side. Meaning all iPad clients could then pull those updates locally instead of congesting the 4-5 T1’s.

    Estimated cost? 4-5K plus setup (and a little DNS redirection magic) maintenance, administration etc. Oh,wait. That’s right…Apple is not an enterprise company though and they eliminated the rack-mountable X-Server line…leaving Data Center crawl open to interpretation.

  21. John Weiss says:

    Lee, great blog about the reality behind the happy talk. The tech gurus have tried to keep cost at the core of the Apple where nobody will see it. Now it’s out there, thanks to your research and disclosure.

  22. Brian Miller says:

    I’d like to address the issue of proving the efficacy of iPads over print textbooks. First, I agree that caution is always needed when spending scarce education dollars (or business dollars, for that matter). And there are not enough efficacy studies proving beyond doubt that iPads or other devices are more effective than print (or even that being more engaging, versatile or future-proof makes any medium more effective than another). That said, there is at least one head-to-head, iPads-vs.-print study that shows a difference. A modest disclaimer is in order: I work for the company, HMH, who’s product, Algebra FUSE, was tested. I did not work on the project and don’t know which 3rd-party company conducted the research. In a nutshell, HMH created an app version of one of our Algebra textbooks, and used it to conduct a year-long pilot in several California districts. Some classrooms got the Fuse app, while others got print books. The content was the same for iPad app and print books, although the apps have interactive features the books don’t (well, duh, as my younger brother would say).

    At the end of the study, results from the spring 2011 California Standards Tests (CST) showed that the number of students who scored Proficient or better on the CST was 19% higher than students who used the print textbook. Is this study bulletproof? I don’t know about that…it could certainly use some company, so hopefully there will be others like it to come, from other publishers, educators and researchers. Is the result enough to justify spending extra education dollars on iPads and digital content (and bandwidth, training, etc.)? It can’t hurt. Combined with other uses for iPads and the problems with static print books, this research can only help districts who are already leaning toward going digital.

    Here’s a link for more info on the study and the Fuse app:

  23. Hi Lee,
    I was interested in the addition of the device and infrastructure costs in the iPad (eTexts) case but these were neglected in the case of the dead tree version. That bricks and mortar Library that my dept keep our math texts in cost a fair bit to build and a fair bit to run and maintain. (Not that I’m complaining I am very pro-Library and pro-B.O.O.K. I am also pro eBook.) As a network manager for many years (for my sins) who is now back in the classroom I think it isn’t an either/or situation.

    In my school in my department we use the PDF versions of the texts provided by the publishers of our texts with our students with their laptops and iPads. I think the big benefit of the iPad is the weight – one text = 750g one iPad = 750g. However on the iPad I can put ALL my texts. The other is battery life.

    There are also many open source texts (such as flexbooks) that cost nothing, nada, nil, zero… STEM teachers should really check these out. Project Gutenberg is also a fantastic source. Vive le public domaine!
    I think the assumptions upon which your costs have been made are a worst case scenario on the iPad side. Many existing texts are available in eBook format at no extra cost from publishers. They are usually PDF or some form of ePub. Sometimes they are just word docs!
    I think that many schools texts get beaten up prematurely (ours do) and many pine trees are sacrificed to feed the photocopiers that copy the exercises from various texts that teachers use to do their jobs.

    I suspect the real cost of paper-based teaching is probably a lot higher than figured in your initial calculations. However the diablo is in the details and it is hard to measure these costs per child per year in a meaningful way.

    Good article though – in spite of my gripes – and a good read! Thanks for your contrarian efforts to question the costs of tech in schools and your post has been food for thought.

    Many thanks,
    Peter Spicer-Wensley
    (Maths, Science, IT & Business Teacher)

    Sent from my school-provided iPad…

  24. […] Wilson, L. (2012, February 23). Apple’s iPad Textbooks Cost 5x More Than Print. The Education Business Blog. Retrieved July 1, 2013, from […]

  25. James Rice says:

    I am writing from Connect School of Languages in Toronto. We operate a private English as a Second Language institute. We incorporated the iPad into our school two years ago and it is a game changer for education.

    iPads are NOT just computers.

    iPads are textbooks, DVD’s, projectors, cameras, microphones, whiteboards, dictionaries, maps, report cards, attendance sheets, and much more depending on the apps or the iBook used.

    Let me tell your our story and I hope you can share this information with your readers.

    The iPad for us is a wonder. It is an incredible machine. But as soon as we brought it into the classroom we realized that this machine was very, very different. In the two years since we brought the iPad into our school some interesting things have occurred:

    40% of our teachers resigned
    30% increase in spending on computer-related items (connectors, covers, docking units, TV’s for display and of course the iPad itself)
    20% increase of student complaints about using out-of-date textbooks
    15% increase in student enrollment directly related to using the iPad
    100% ability to Create our own material available on iTunes (Our English Listening Textbook is here – )

    Let me explain why:

    We lost 40% of our teachers who quit because they did not want to change their teaching style or did not agree with what we are doing. The #1 problem facing any school bringing in the iPad is the teachers. Many teachers have been successful teaching “their way” for many years. And they do not want to change. Period.

    Our solution was to hire new teachers, out of teacher’s college that were not “afraid” of technology. These are the first teachers we started training to use the iPad.

    Not all of the older teachers felt this way. Some of them were very excited to work with the iPad and recognize its future importance in the world. Nevertheless, even for them, it has been a tough road to change.

    Schools need to be prepared to win teacher’s over. If you are going to bring in the iPad, the first place to start is with the teachers. The change in the classroom is so dramatic that it can traumatize teachers.

    Teachers need to be trained. Teachers need to be part of the process. And the most exciting thing about the iPad is that teachers will get more input on the curricula. They can reorganize lesson plans. Add videos. Use different apps. There are so many new ways to teach that it can be very exciting for teachers who are well-trained.

    The iPad eliminates the need of the printed textbook. Printed textbooks are out-of-date. Students hate them. Teachers dislike them. In fact, many students take photos of the textbook on their own mobile devices to do their homework because they don’t want to carry around the book!

    The iPad offers two amazing features – apps and iBooks.

    The sheer number of apps that can be used in the classroom are amazing. However, as a school, your curriculum designers must choose the apps that best match your educational model. And that educational model changes depending on the school, the class and even the teacher.

    iBooks offer a much more exciting proposition. We are busy transferring all of our curricula into the iBooks format. We can offer so much more to teachers and students with the iBooks textbooks.

    The Teacher’s Books can be very detailed AND we can adjust the Teacher’s Books to match the teacher’s style. For example, if a teacher says, “I don’t like this video, I prefer using this video clip”, — no problem. We can simply remove the video clip they don’t want and replace it with the clip the teacher wants. It takes a matter of minutes.

    So much more power is given to the teacher to use content they feel comfortable with.

    In addition, for schools and school boards, some huge benefits will occur:

    you will have complete control over your curricula
    you will be able to foster ideas from the ground up
    teachers will have more opportunity for input
    principals can adjust textbooks to match the student body attending the school (i.e. arts schools vs. sports schools)

    Curricula power can be shared with teachers instead of imposing it on them. This comes with costs. And it will take time to implement. In our case, we are going through our curricula, day by day, class by class. It is a painstaking process. But in the end, the class is so much better and the teachers are visibly excited to come into work everyday to teach with content that is relevant and interactive.

    The Classroom
    One of the more dramatic developments we have seen is the classroom itself. Our current classroom which consists of a large boardroom style table with chairs around it and a whiteboard does not work.

    As soon as students get the iPad, they want to move. And our classroom limits them. So we have been working on redeveloping the look and feel of the classroom so students have more opportunity to move.

    Schools will need to rethink the classroom. The iPad is a mobile device. It is designed to move with you, share with other people and generally be interactive. It is not a computer designed to sit on your desk.

    We dislike any educational model that forces students to sit behind a computer for 3 or 4 hours a day. It is not necessary now. Students in pairs or small groups can create some wonderful and amazing things with the iPad.

    The teacher’s role becomes a guide on the road to discovery as opposed to a sage on a stage.

    In Conclusion

    As soon as we purchased our first few iPads and started to experiment with them, we knew they were game changes.

    For the past two years, we have started the process of revamping our infrastructure to match the power of this new technology. Mobile education gives more freedom and power to teachers and students through the iPads or any mobile platform that may yet be developed.

    If schools want to bring in the iPad they must be prepared for wholesale, dramatic changes to their infrastructure. Teachers must be trained and brought on board to help implement these changes. Curricula needs to be totally revamped. And new content must be developed. The classroom setup with the iPad no longer is viable.

    iPads breathe life into classes. Students can interact, be mobile, share thoughts and ideas. Teachers can be mobile. They can guide, help, interact, inspire. Everything we want our teachers and students to be. The classroom experience can be an amazing one.

    iPads are not computers.

    iPads are the future of education.

  26. Nice Discussion… but i think so its time for kindle books, they are getting popularity day by day, apple must improve its UI for books and also slash prices.

  27. […] respected education consultant Lee Wilson notes in a report breaking down school expenses, “It will cost a school 552% more to implement […]

  28. […] shiny gizmos. Education business analyst Lee Wilson argues digital textbooks on the iPad can cost more than five times as much as a traditional textbook and require additional management and training for effective […]