The district is looking into the possibility of setting up an ebook service for our teachers and students in some of our media centers. Ebooks would come largely from free repositories like Project Gutenberg and be managed through Calibre, which is an excellent desktop-based ebook management tool. It’s like an iTunes for ebooks. It lets you search for books in the collection, convert books to different formats, and sync them to your handheld ebook reader. We will also license copyrighted books for use through Calibre in the future. Calibre also includes its own built-in web server, so you (and others) can access your ebooks from anywhere, though the interface isn’t as sophisticated as the desktop interface.

We’re still exploring different readers. It’s an exciting project, though I can’t help but think we’re narrowing our scope by limiting it to ebooks. iPads especially can do a lot more, and HP has a new slate that actually supports Flash (take a note, Apple). These devices can go far beyond what a simple ebook reader can do, though for quite a larger cost.

The advantage, though, is that slates can be web-enabled through a wireless connection and can access a much wider range of content, play videos, podcasts, and more. Students could use them to take online quizzes in a computer-less classroom. This would allow teachers to use classroom management tools like Moodle without having to send everyone down to the computer lab. Students could also take notes, view instructional videos during the teacher’s lecture, and even engage in web-based augmented reality activities by taking their slates outside and around the school campus.