[Olpc-open] E-Textbooks good, now is a time to speak

Aaron Baca abaca at PartnerASP.com
Thu Jan 19 23:19:31 EST 2012

As many here are aware, Apple has made recent annoucements regarding e-Book textbook initiatives.  I urge the OLPC community to act quickly with respect to this matter.  I feel that e-Book textbooks can be a great source of knowledge for the OLPC project to give to developing nations.  The issues though, I feel the OLPC community could uniquely address.

1) Apple's EULA for publishers requires books authored with their software remain distributed ONLY via Apple channels.  Hopefully officials at OLPC have some contacts with the US FTC (Federal Trade Commission) which can begin steps to remove such restrictions, such that publishers could donate professionally produced materials to the OLPC project, as well as private citizens making donations of licensed materials.  

It should be noted that Apple uses the ePub open format wrapped in their Fairplay DRM.  Essentially, publishing e-books created with the Apple software to other platforms only requires the removal of the wrapper, and if necessary, the addition of a new one.  Content would remain 100% usable with capable reading software.

2) OLPC is at an interesting juncture where the pricing of their devices as well as the rugged qualities thereof better meets the needs of school systems in the US as well as the rest of the world.  This presents an enormous opportunity for a device such as the XO-3 tablet to not just get more widespread recognition, but for partnerships with better funded US school districts to be formed.  Such partnerships would allow wider production of the XO-3 and other models as well as well as create large bulk orders of devices with matching hardware donations to developing nations.

3) OLPC as a charity organization enjoys positive press such that if the community and it's leaders spoke out about iBooks and other proprietary Apple practices which affect education, their voice would carry stronger political and social weight.  The benefits would not only be to OLPC, but would trickle down to other platforms and greater openness of information and knowledge.  Such a movement could also be leveraged equally against publishers who ransom knowledge at the highest margin they can accomplish.

The idea of e-book textbooks is nothing new, but if there is to be a significant scale revolution to the use of e-books in the classroom, everyone should be included.

I have also copied Jimmy Wales on this correspondence, as I hope some of this message coicides with his ideals at Wikia.

I appreciate your time,
Aaron Baca

More information about the Olpc-open mailing list