New IBM ThinkPad, ThinkCentre Preloaded with Classic Books

Partnership Between IBM and Vital Source Brings Library to Student -- 2,000 books in a backpack? 2,000 books in a dorm room?

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RALEIGH, N.C - 23 Mar 2004: Forney, Texas, School District Is First with Electronic Textbooks
IBM today announced an exclusive three-year agreement with Vital Source Technologies to preload more than 2,000 classics of western civilization on ThinkPad notebooks and ThinkCentre desktops for education customers. In addition, K-12 schools, colleges and universities can work with IBM and VST to preload textbooks and other customized content. The agreement helps educators operating under cost constraints and textbook availability issues to load quickly accessible educational content on the hard drives of personal computers, reducing the need for students to carry backpacks filled with books.

Education models of ThinkPad notebooks and ThinkCentre desktops will be preloaded with the vitalsource KEY, a delivery application providing students and teachers with powerful tools for active reading, searching, organizing, and annotating class materials. Because the vitalsource KEY is included in the price of the system, there is no additional cost to students. The vitalsource KEY pulls together materials from respected publishers throughout the world and helps educators integrate that information into their teaching environments. It includes the Personal Portable Library, a customizable resource containing more than 2,000 great works of literature, history, political science and other subjects. Buying a hard copy of each volume separately would cost about $13,500.

Forney Independent School District, near Dallas, Texas, will be the first school system nationwide to pilot a solution that converts the textbooks of an entire curriculum onto a ThinkPad notebook. In fast-growth districts like Forney ISD, with elementary school growth at 25-30 percent annually, there is a severe shortage of textbooks. Textbook orders are typically limited to a fixed percentage of the previous year's enrollment, and enrollment forecasts are volatile. To solve this problem, Forney ISD is turning to Vital Source software pre-loaded on IBM notebooks. Forney will begin replacing traditional textbooks with an electronic curriculum in fall 2004.

"This is an innovative solution to a textbook shortage," said Mike Smith, superintendent of Forney Independent School District. "Electronic textbooks are not a matter of if. They're a matter of when. The problem is that hardcover textbooks are sometimes three or four years out of date when they arrive, and their lifespan is being stretched up to eight years. They physically don't last eight years, and you're just throwing good money after bad. With the continuous growth in Forney schools each year, we have to find a solution that will give our students the resources and materials they need for a first-class education."

In addition to textbook availability issues, the rising cost of textbooks continues to be a concern for students, parents and school administrators. The State Public Interest Research Group's Higher Education Project released a recent report concluding that college students will spend nearly $900 this year on textbooks -- 24 percent more than in 1996-1997. VST software can help schools reduce their costs by enabling low-cost production, distribution, storage, and usage of educational materials from a variety of resources.

Growing concern over backpacks is the motivation behind the annual National School Backpack Awareness Day conducted each September since 2002, sponsored by the American Occupational Therapy Association. Citing several studies, the AOTA has reported that the average student carries a backpack weighing almost one-fourth of his or her body weight; six out of 10 students aged 9 to 20 reported chronic back pain related to heavy backpacks; and more than 7,000 emergency room visits in 2001 resulted from injuries related to backpacks and book bags. Half of those occurred among children between the ages of 5 and 14.

Other school systems, colleges and universities participating in IBM and Vital Source programs include the Arizona School of Health Sciences, Boston University, the Clark County School District (Nevada) Virtual School Project, Florida Virtual High School, the North Carolina A&T nursing program, the National Paideia Center, New York University, Peace College, SUNY-Buffalo, the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey, the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at San Antonio, the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, and Wake Forest University.

IBM ThinkPad and ThinkCentre education models with the vitalsource KEY library of more than 2,000 books will become available in April. Prices for ThinkPad models will start at $1,349, and prices for ThinkCentre models will start at $939. These prices are not appreciably more expensive than previous education models.