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“Assemblyman Curt Hagman’s E-Reader Textbooks Bill Signed into Law by Governor”
… was the title of a press release that just flew in through our transom demanding to be read.
SACRAMENTO – Assemblyman Curt Hagman’s (R-Chino Hills) Assembly Bill 133, also known as the “e-Reader Bill,” was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown. AB 133 requires that all publishers or manufactures who sell print textbooks to K-12 school districts in California also provide those textbooks in a digital format that can be viewed on e-reader devices.
“I would like to thank Governor Brown for his support of this measure and for signing it into law,” said Assemblyman Hagman. “AB 133 will place California on the cutting edge of technology use in the classroom and enhance our children’s educational experience by allowing them to utilize technology to which they are already accustomed.”
Currently, California K-12 school districts are mandated to provide all students print textbooks as their basic learning materials. Recently, the advent of e-readers has allowed these texts to be published digitally and downloaded on e-reader devices, giving students a new medium to receive, and actively engage with, the material. As our children have already been using e-readers, tablets and other technological devices for years, implementing their use in the classroom will bring California up to speed with other parts of the world such as South Korea, China and Taiwan that have already begun to implement e-readers as standard learning tools.
Assembly Bill 133 is the first step in laying the groundwork for the full integration of modern technology in the classroom.
This is probably a good idea — and only “probably” because in general the wealthier subset of students will have e-readers and the less wealthy won’t, so the advantages of such a bill will accrue mainly to the “haves.” (Watch, for example, for e-Reader versions of texts to always be available in the most current editions while paper versions are allowed to lag behind by an edition or two — or four.) So, it adds to social stratification, which surely doesn’t bother Hagman, by making education better for the haves than for the have-nots — but if it saves money overall then maybe that could be used to aid those who don’t benefit from it directly.
(One crazy idea: the school districts could provide poorer students with e-readers so that they can gain the same benefits as their wealthier peers. Of course, that raises the question of what to do when they get lost. The e-readers, not the students.)
Anyway, that’s not my point. My point is that if it’s more profitable for companies to produce e-reader editions, then the market should magically lead them to do so without regulation. That we need to pass a law in this circumstance implies that this wasn’t happening on its own. That in turn implies that it wasn’t profitable. And that in turn implies that this new law imposes a new cost on businesses — in this case, in the textbook industry. Larger publishers will probably better be able to adapt to this requirement than smaller ones, leading to concentration of market share within those larger corporations — which again is not likely something that will bother Asmb. Hagman.
So the next time you see someone like Curt Hagman complaining about government imposing expensive regulations on the commercial sector, remind of his pride in this bill. (Of course, that pride may be grounded in this bill’s doing good things for Chino Hills, Diamond Bar and Yorba Linda while being of less help to less wealthy areas — in which case he won’t see any contradiction. Rules, as we often see in our local governments, are made to be broken — at least for the right sorts of people.