That’s the result shown in an excellent graphic in the Mercury News.  It’s part of an article called Will Apple create the all-iPad classroom?

According to the graphic, for 32 students over a period of 6 years, the cost of an iPad textbook will run $36,000.  This includes the initial cost of the iPad and replacement costs during the 6 year period.  By way of contrast, the cost of a regular textbook over that period will be $11,328, including replacement costs.  That’s a big difference!

The article goes on to say:

Many schools are forging ahead with iPads, even without the iBook 2 textbook service. With local bond money, the tiny Emery school district in Alameda County plans to eventually buy an iPad for every student in grades seven to 12. Already, it has issued tablets to 180 students in grades seven, nine and 10 and traded in its algebra and geometry textbooks for electronic ones. It plans to do the same for all core subjects by the 2013-14 school year.

“It’s time for the education industry to catch up with the students,” said John Perry, district director of information technology. He thinks the students will take care of the iPads and expects a damage and loss rate of less than 7 percent, because students don’t want to lose access to the devices and tend to take care of them as a result.

Online texts are not limited to Apple’s iBooks, of course. Nearly all hardcover textbooks come with electronic editions. The Acalanes Union High School District in Lafayette pioneered an interactive Algebra I book, the HMH Fuse, which publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt marketed on a traditional model: It’s $49 per book for a six-year license.

It may be that those models, or open-source textbooks that cost districts nothing, will emerge as the alternative to the iBook classroom.

Thanks to Michael von Glahn for the link.



  1. Richard, they are adding in the cost of the iPads. The graphic shows the iPads alone as costing $24,000. Sadly even this high figure is most likely a gross underestimate.

    Computer hardware under constant use will not last 6 years, especially under constant use by kids. Most businesses refresh laptop hardware every three years. If nothing else the battery will not take more than a couple of years of constant recharges before it needs to be replaced at considerable cost. And giving a complex tablet to hundreds of high school kids will require a massive investment in service and support.

    Why does the path to a digital classroom have to lead to purchasing ultra high-priced trendy Apple products and restrictive high-priced digital textbooks? Wouldn’t it be nice to see some kind of movement toward open-source digital textbooks created by educators working co-operatively? And how about a nice no-frills education tablet?

  2. Ues, but the traditional textbooks have lousy browsers and a medicre app selection. Seriously, you are taking apples and oranges. With the iPad, you have the textbooks and MUCH more. We’ll see fascinating case studies in the next few years of productive use of iPads in the classroom. And, yes, we’ll see mistakes made in implementation, too.

  3. I find it really disturbing that school districts would blithely push children into the highly commercialized closed system of Apple where everything is controlled by and sold by Apple.

    And who’s going to pay for this brave new world of Apple branded education? What about the inner-city schools, the rural schools and the poorer suburban schools? Or will this great advance be exclusively for the rich kids in places like Lafayette?

  4. Figures don’t lie but liars do figure.

    As I understand the traditional scheme of things in K-12, the school system buys state-approved books and tries to keep them in usable condition for 5-6 years while loaning them to students. Apple has capped the price of eTextbooks at $14.99 and its the students who buy them, not the school system. Even if the school system buys the iPads (retaining title of course), this is a very different proposition.

    A typical high school text costs $60. That’s about $12 a year. Remember, this cost has been shifted to students and their families except in documented cases of need.

    So 60 X the 5 classes a student usually takes every year comes to $300. This is what school systems used to pay. Instead, they buy an iPad and ask the student to buy the books. One would expect that volume purchased iPads would be about $300 to $350. So it looks like a wash as they say.

    Not really. There is a huge bonus in having the iPad which not only enables reading eTextbooks but also does a bizillion other useful things, including web browsing, email, calendaring and so on. It’s a veritable learning engine for any who will use it toward that end.

    Open source eTextbooks make this an even sweeter deal and Apple just happens to make a tool for developing those absolutely free (iBooks Author) .

  5. Personally I do not support the use of iPads for this kind of use. The resources, the textbooks, the content, the functionality of those textbooks is not even nearly ready. But that doesn’t mean I can swallow a piece of crap like this.

    This article is a piece of utter nonsense and considering it appears to have been prepared by an adult, one cannot help but conclude that it is an intentional piece of dissembly.

    Firstly the whole calculation is based on a student having four text books? Is this all the subjects and textbooks a K12 in the US has ? In my country a student at that level studies between 8 and 10 subjects and is likely to have at least 12 – 14 textbooks.

    In the graphic the price of an iPad is shown as $765, yet in the article it is quoted at $500 incl case.

    Again I don’t live in the US, but here there is a new textbook in every subject ‘almost’ every year. Even if only a page or two changes. So students have to buy almost a complete set of textbooks every year.

    To imagine that either the technology or the package or the costs or the system would last for 6 years is a fantasy. The truth is everything changes every 6 months! I cannot image anything in the tech world last 6 years.

    Surely a staff writer with a professional newspaper can do better than this.

The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail