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When it comes to making changes and adopting new technologies such as e-books, education officials are as slow-moving as a two-toed sloth. However, two announcements in the technology space this week could have a major affect on classroom life.

Google E-books Launches

This week Google launched their anticipated e-books store, Google e-books, thus shaking up the already growing e-book market, which earlier this year was reported to have grown 108% in the past year alone.

Stocked with over 3-million books consumable through any device with a web-browser, the Google e-books store will also contain an assortment of hard-to-find scholarly and scientific titles that according to Scott Dougall, a Google Product Management director will make it “the largest e-book store on the planet.”

What makes this news noteworthy for those in the education space isn”t just that the service makes it easy to find books that are free to read (Google was already doing that with the Google Books project). No, what makes this revolutionary is that Google’s e-books store is compatible on any device with a web-connection. When I look up Pride and Prejudice, for example, I can easily find a free copy of the novel, plus add the edition to my library for later viewing. Later, when I’m on the go, I’ll just access the book on my iPhone.

Imagine how much it could save if students could access countless e-books and reading material from any web-compatible device they choose.

Amazon Kindle Steps Up

Hot on the heels of Google’s whirlwind announcement is the Amazon Kindle, the current leader in the e-book space. It launched a web addition of its book store this week called Kindle for the Web which contains much of the functionality of Google e-books.

In 5 Education Articles to Start Your Week: The End of Textbooks as We Know It, we touched on an article which articulates that growing prevalence of e-reading tools in college environments. According to the article, colleges are forfeiting the usually college text book fees and allowing students to pay an upfront course materials fee for e-books provided by the school. However, now that Google e-books and Kindle for the Web have gone head to head in providing free and discounted books for anyone with a web connection, will we see more e-books throughout the education system?

We just might! With education secretary Anne Duncan warning school officials that the school budgeting crisis is “the new normal,” it might not be too much longer before we see more investment in the education technologies such as e-books which, Duncan says, could help lower textbook costs.

E-book Impact on Education

One of the biggest roadblocks in the quest to put e-books in the hands of our youth, was always that, originally, e-books required a separate, dedicated device with which to view them. However, Google e-books and Kindle on the Web make it so that anyone with a web-connection can access quality, free e-books.

Imagine all the kids who could use these free resources to write a paper (in the library, you’re only limited to one copy at best). There’s also the fact that encouraging students to use Google e-books and Kindle on the Web as a means to find free research materials may lead them to desire an e-book reader, which according to a of 1,200 e-reader owners by Marketing and Research Resources Inc, inspires people to read more after going digital.

It drives at a valuable point I’ve been trying to make. When people look at e-books, they might think “we’ve only traded ink for pixels,” but what Google e-books has done is once again changed the experience of how we discover already available information. The Kindle reader had already done so, as that in a matter of moments and taps, you can have a brand new novel sitting in your lap.

In the Wall Street Journal article “” writer Steve Johnson says “Amazon”s early data suggest that Kindle users buy significantly more books than they did before owning the device, and it”s not hard to understand why: The bookstore is now following you around wherever you go.”

Well, Google has just made it so that many students can say the same thing. With a cell phone in their pocket and a web connection, the library is following them around, wherever they choose to explore it. Scientific researchers can even use Google”s new Ngram Viewer to graph literary phrases over a time-set. The possibilities for putting these priceless books online seem only to be limited by our own presumptions of their power.

featured photo by Mike Licht

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