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Should schools be thinking of netbooks as electronic book readers instead of laptop replacements?

The best-selling netbooks typically fall within the $300 to $400 range and their capabilities are increasing rapidly as manufacturers figure out how to include more features. For example, we are seeing larger or solid state hard drives, additional external ports, more included software, touch screens, and the emergence of tablet netbooks or netbooks with removable displays.

Netbooks traditionally have been positioned as laptop replacements and are selling briskly because they can do what we need most of the time. However, many K-12 educators feel that netbooks are not a good option for student 1:1 computing initiatives because they lack the capabilities of a full laptop computer.

I’ve been reading lately about attempts to get electronic book readers (e-readers) into the hands of students. I wonder if schools should be thinking of netbooks as e-readers intead, particularly as tablet-style netbooks and free / low-cost online or electronic textbook initiatives both become more prevalent. The cost of a netbook is comparable to a Kindle, for example, and has greater functionality than the typical e-reader (rather than lesser functionality compared to a laptop). A student carrying around a $400 tablet netbook could use it primarily as an e-reader and also as a laptop replacement. This dual functionality might make netbooks a smart bet for many schools, particularly as the cost decreases – and availability increases – of online and electronic textbook options. Savings on textbooks might offset or even pay for the cost of the netbooks.

Does thinking of netbooks as e-readers make them a more attractive option to schools rather than considering them solely as laptops? Do dedicated electronic book readers such as the Kindle or the Sony e-Reader make any sense for K-12 schools? Thoughts?


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