Clearwater, Florida - Students need them, but it's about a 20-pound weight on their backs they'd rather do without.
"It can get very heavy, especially this year. Seven classes, seven different textbooks," says 17-year-old Megan Pope, an 11th grader at Clearwater High School.
Next year, Clearwater High School students will replace its textbooks with a 10 ounce electronic reader called the Kindle, that's loaded with their textbooks.
"It's small, really light to carry," says 11th grader Mohamed Baydoun.
The kindle is lighter than most paperbacks. It measures 8 by 5 inches and is less that half an inch thick. The Kindle holds up to 1,500 books. It highlights and bookmarks. Students can take notes and if you don't know the meaning of a word, there's a dictionary built into it. The Kindle will even read out loud to you, converting text to speech.
"I don't like reading textbooks. This will help me pay more attention to what I'm listening to, doing my work, getting it done and understanding it," says Megan.
"This is one of neatest breakthroughs we've had," says social studies teacher Linda Smith.
All Clearwater High School teachers already have one.
"I've enjoyed it immensely. I'll be able to keep updated with magazines and periodicals for my class as well," says Linda.
Linda has been teaching at Clearwater for 30 years. She thinks the Kindle will help improve students' grades.
"It's going to make a big difference. It's very difficult to have students bring textbooks to class, especially in social studies; the books are a couple of hundred pages thick and they don't want to carry them from home to school."
Textbooks cost about $80. If a student loses it, they pay for it. With the Kindle, if a student wants to take it home, they can buy an insurance policy for about $30 just in case something happens to it.
School district officials estimate each Kindle costs about $250. If a student habitually loses or damages the Kindle, it will be taken away and they will go back to the old-fashioned textbook.
"It's like iPods and cell phones. They're always with you and you'll want to take care of it," says Mohamed. He adds, "It's going to give me another desire to want to learn, it's pretty cool."
The school expects to pay $400,000 for its 2,100 Kindles. The school is using its technology fund, plus a loan from the school district that will be repaid through grants.
Then there's the cost of buying the e-book version of the textbooks. School district officials the e-books will cost about 20 percent less than the hardcover books. Since the school won't have to be buying new books every year and will already have the Kindles school district officials expect the Kindles to pay for themselves in six years.
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