Expense of iPads could make Apple’s tablet-based learning future problematic for high schoolers

On TechCrunch, MG Siegler looks at the new education programs launched by Apple and what they really mean for high schoolers. In Siegler’s opinion, not much. While they might give college students incentive to get iPads, he finds it doubtful that most high school students will be able to get their own, in keeping with Apple’s stated goal that students should be able to buy e-textbooks and keep them forever.

The program will be great for college students, Siegler points out. The idea of textbook prices capped at $15 makes the sting of not being able to “sell them back” a lot less painful. (Assuming that $15 applies to college as well as high school texts, of course.) But iPads are awfully expensive for high schoolers or their parents to be able to afford, especially in places like the inner cities where such a device might not necessarily remain too long in its owner’s possession if it’s seen in the wrong place.

Even if when the next iPad is announced, the current model drops in price to something like $400 — or even $300 — that’s still an expensive sell to high school students and/or their parents and/or their schools. If every kid in the world already had an iPad, this would be the most brilliant program ever. Unfortunately, Apple needs to sell at least a few billion more iPads to get to that point.

Siegler suggests that, to get to the bright future where students are able to keep their books on their tablets, we need to see about getting tablets in those students’ hands first.

Who knows? Perhaps in a few years we’ll have found a cheap enough display technology to make that happen.

3 Comments on Expense of iPads could make Apple’s tablet-based learning future problematic for high schoolers

  1. Remember, too, that high school students in public high schools don’t buy their textbooks, the schools do. While high school textbooks aren’t cheap, they’re not nearly as expensive as college textbooks, nor do they change as often. School districts don’t typically adopt new textbooks sooner than every 5 years, and often go 7 or more during budget crunches. So that $15 textbook isn’t really that cheap; $15 per student for 5 years is $75. My daughter’s most recently adopted textbook cost $73 at the publisher’s site.

  2. In Ireland and the UK school textbooks more often than not change every year. Usually there are only a few technical changes or a few pages moved forward or back.

  3. The cost of tablets in general will surely drop significantly and quite quickly in the UK and US. For example, in India, the government is reportedly buying fully-functional tablet computers for $35, and selling them to poor students for $30. These computers connect wirelessly to the web where students can access a complete K-12 curriculum. I doubt Apple will be introducing an iPad for $35, or even $99, anytime soon, but the manufacturing cost of the components is not the reason.

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