E-books will augment real texts in 2011

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E-books will augment real texts in 2011

Elementary, middle and high school students will be learning with electronic textbooks in addition to currently used paper textbooks starting next year, the Education Ministry said yesterday.

The announcement came as the ministry continues to promote the idea of giving more freedom to textbook publishers to set prices and for schools to decide what textbooks and learning material formats for use in the classroom. Price setting will be made flexible from 2012, according to the ministry.

The ministry’s decision will pave the way for ordinary books on the market and some books written by schoolteachers to be officially adopted as textbooks only if the ministry or local education offices approve. Since that means some textbooks could be even thicker and heavier than conventional textbooks that are normally no thinner than 300 pages, the Education Ministry began thinking about using e-textbooks on CD-ROMs.

Students will be using paper-based textbooks at school and use the e-books with personal computers at home. The entire content of paper-based textbooks will be contained on the CD-ROMs. Korean literature and language, English and mathematics will be chosen first and other subjects will be gradually added, according to the ministry. “If textbooks are made into CD-ROMs, students will no longer need to carry back and forth heavy textbooks in their bags,” said Vice Education Minister Lee Ju-ho in a press briefing.

Some elementary schools have been using pilot digital textbooks since 2006. Digital textbooks are differentiated from e-textbooks in that the former not only contain text but also various multimedia content ranging from video clips to animations and electronic dictionaries. However, for the digital textbooks to be widely adopted, schools must buy expensive terminals specially devised for them and teachers must undergo training in their use.

The ministry said the e-textbooks will be distributed to elementary and middle school students free of charge while high school students will be required to buy them. Only those students from needy households will be exempted from the fees.

The ministry said its move to diversify textbooks is aimed at reflecting rapidly changing trends. “In the case of science, in particular, it is better for schools to file an application for various books to be used as teaching materials to education authorities because it takes time for government-designated textbook developers to make changes in accordance with the fast progress in modern science,” said an Education Ministry official.

To prevent use of unqualified books as textbooks, the ministry will designate specific think tanks as reviewers, the ministry added.

Regarding fears that textbooks will see large price hikes, the ministry will go over the prices offered by textbook developers before the books are put on the market shelves and if the prices are deemed overly expensive, it will advise the publishers to adjust prices. Should any publisher be found to bribe school officials, the ministry will impose fines of up to 30 million won ($26,700) and restrict textbook publishing applications for up to five years.

By Seo Ji-eun

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