e-textbooks, DRM, and vendor lock-in for schools

Discussion over e-textbooks and hardware/software to read them has started at our school. Links to information regarding Amazon’s Kindle and CafeScribe were suggested to begin some research. Below is my response. I would appreciate hearing thoughts from other educators:

I want book readers too. Though, we need to be wary of jumping into hardware and software that risks vendor lock-in and implements DRM. Depending on its implementation, DRM is often going to be inappropriate for schools. For instance, if the file and application prevent students from sharing and working with the data in a flexible way (i.e. copy/pasting to and from other devices/apps if they so choose), it hinders learning opportunities. Avoiding vendor lock-in and using open formats is desirable for schools.

For more info:

DRM

Vendor Lock-in

Open Formats

Right now, Amazon’s Kindle supports most of its files using a DRM-encumbered, proprietary file format (AZW) and forbids users from sharing or putting books on other devices according to its terms of service. CafeScribe looks interesting but locks users into either Windows or Mac at this time and is proprietary. They might offer a platform independent implementation in the future, but in order to use now means vendor lock-in at both the application and operating system level.

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