Students in Australia may soon be leaving their school bags behind as the e-book industry claims to include almost all books in light, hand-held portable devices within the next three years.
These devices will not only be able to connect to the Internet but will also store hundreds of e-textbooks loaned from school libraries or purchased from online e-book stores.
Addressing a conference of school librarians in Melbourne last week, Richard Siegersma, Executive Director, DA Direct, Australia's largest distributor of portable reading devices and e-books, told them to get ready for the digital revolution.
"E-textbooks will be mainstream within three years," The Age quoted him as saying.
According to Siegersma, digital technology would soon enable e-books to become affordable.
Siegersma said: "There will be just-in-time and customized delivery to flexible, full-color screens; textbooks with audio and video components; touch screens for handwriting and margin note-taking and text highlighting."
Siegersma added that new technology would absolutely change the way students get information today.
Sherman Young, Acting Head of Cultural Studies, Macquarie University and the author of The Book Is Dead, Long Live the Book said: "The world is at the e-book tipping point and librarians will be the vanguard of the introduction of e-textbooks," Dr Young told the conference, organized by Curriculum Corporation and the School Library Association of Victoria.
"Book culture is still confused with print culture and it is really only this year people have started to get e-books."
However, Australian Copyright Council lawyer Sneha Balakrishnan, said e-books may not make it to the classroom so easily.
"Some schools are already in the process of negotiating licenses tailored to their needs... But there are still lots of issues to be worked through," she said.
Current users of e-books in Australian schools and colleges have complained of slow data uploading, slow page turning and the availability of few titles.