The more I use my iPad, the more apparent it becomes to me that tablet computers like the iPad will eventually replace college textbooks. I can remember semesters in college over ten years ago when the cost of my textbooks was as much as I what I paid for my iPad this year. The advantages of using tablets in place of traditional paper textbooks are pretty clear.

  • Shipping cost is eliminated.
  • Textbook replacement cost is eliminated. (Your dog can eat your iPad, but not the digital content within it.)
  • New editions can be deployed almost in real time.
  • Pages can be highlighted and annotated without devaluing the book.
  • Textbooks can be searched instantly for keywords and phrases.
  • Instructors could distribute specific annotations and bookmark key sections.
  • Video and audio content can be embedded within textbooks.

So it’s not surprising that universities like Oklahoma State are beginning to experiment with iPads.

Of course, iPads are more than e-readers. They could truly be an all-in-one learning console. Social-media-like tools could allow students to collaborate on projects, share information, and access notes both in the classroom and away from campus. Notes can be taken right on the device and synced with a cloud-based server system hosted by universities (more dog insurance).

These ideas are only based on what we know we can do today with tablet computing. There is no telling what uses will be conceived of (good and bad) when this new technology is put in the hands of college students, who make up one of the most creative segments of the population.