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Old 02-13-2010, 04:41 AM   #1
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Congress wants an e-book reader for low-income kids

Congress wants an e-book reader for low-income kids

This article from Ars Technica explains that Edward Markey of Massachusetts has introduced a bill that would subsidize e-book readers for low-income students.

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Holy iPad, Batman! If this bill passes, are we going to be seeing rural and inner-city students perusing what HarperCollins is offering this week at the iTunes Store? Or will the Kindle 2 be the device of choice? And don't forget the Sony Reader, with its cool real book look cred. How will these youngsters make their move?

Of course, there's a distinct possibility that their school will make it for them. E-Rate (or "Schools and Libraries" as it's formally called) publishes a lengthy eligible services list of generic devices for which it will reimburse K-12s. They, in turn, buy the equipment through contractors chosen on a competitive basis. So the chances are that bulk purchasing will be the rule. Nobody's going to be handed a coupon and pointed to the nearest Apple Store or Best Buy (sorry kids).
Economically speaking, subsidies only serve to drive prices higher so I can't say I support this bill. Interesting news, though. I wouldn't have thought that e-book readers or the e-book market was mature enough for people to start claiming students NEED these devices.
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Old 02-13-2010, 04:48 AM   #2
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What chance does this stand of becoming law? Is it anything like "private members' bills" in the British Parliament, which stand zero chance of getting anywhere unless they receive the support of the government?
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Old 02-13-2010, 05:21 AM   #3
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The bill needs to be passed by a majority in each house of congress and then signed by the president. The president could veto it and send it back to congress. A veto can only be overturned by a 2/3 vote. The Democrats probably support this bill but Republicans won't. There's already a lot of emphasis being put on government spending and the deficit right now. Arguably, it's why the Democrats lost a seat in the senate in Massachusetts last month. MA is probably the most liberal state in the country, so it was a pretty big upset. However, giving that seat to a Republican lost the Democrats their 3/5 super majority in the senate, thus derailing their plans to pass a health care bill that would have greatly increased government spending. Why is this important? A couple reasons. One reason is that without a super majority, Democrats can't force cloture on a filibuster allowing Republicans to talk endlessly about a bill, preventing the house from ever coming to a vote on it. Another reason the current political climate matters is that Democrats may fear losing more ground to Republicans (which may be inevitable at this point). Obama has already shifted his focus to address increasing concerns about employment and government spending, which was evident during his State of the Union Address last month. Given the hostility towards frivolous government spending right now, some Democrats may be hesitant to support the bill. Especially Democrats from more traditionally conservative areas. But anything is possible. You never know what the clowns in our government will do next!

What are private members' bills? I don't really know how bills are passed in GB. I learned years ago in my comparative government class in high school but it's been a while.
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Old 02-13-2010, 06:35 AM   #4
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Thank you - that's interesting.

Private member's bills are explained here. Basically it's a proposed law introduced by a "private" member of parliament, rather than by the government. Each parliamentary session, 20 MPs are chosen by ballot to be given the opportunity to introduce such a bill. As I say, though, unless they receive government support they generally run out of time for debate, and don't get anywhere.
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Old 02-13-2010, 07:26 AM   #5
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Thank you - that's interesting.

Private member's bills are explained here. Basically it's a proposed law introduced by a "private" member of parliament, rather than by the government. Each parliamentary session, 20 MPs are chosen by ballot to be given the opportunity to introduce such a bill. As I say, though, unless they receive government support they generally run out of time for debate, and don't get anywhere.
Our pork barrels are filled a bit differently. In the USA, you convince a member of Congress or a Senator to stick a piece of detritus into an unrelated bill and then you hope no one from the press or the opposing party reads the entire bill. It's worse if the press finds it, less bad if the oposition finds it, since they have crap in bills as well and may be open to some 'horse trading'. This may be part of the reason our legislation is so murky.

I am convinced that this is the biggest source of voter discontent in the USA, and I believe this is the driving force of the Tea Party movement. People who write them off as angry white racists, or illiterate boobs neither of which they are, miss the point of what they are saying.

(OK, I'm off my soap box!)
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Old 02-13-2010, 07:40 AM   #6
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This could be good for ebook format standardization. . .

If it passes.

But it will also be good for driving PC give-away programs since you can't really support a basic ereader without a PC. It will also drive programs to increase gov't subsidy of bringing high speed internet to areas of low population density. (all worthy, but very costly)

It will drive the set up more e-lending programs at public libraries.

Off hand, I can't think of other effects it might cause although I"m sure there are numerous downstream effects I haven't thought of.

I don't think it stands a chance of passing since few politicians value reading, and I doubt text book publishing lobbyists would really want their product digitized any faster than it already is.
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Old 02-13-2010, 10:05 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SpiderMatt View Post
The bill needs to be passed by a majority in each house of congress and then signed by the president. The president could veto it and send it back to congress. A veto can only be overturned by a 2/3 vote. The Democrats probably support this bill but Republicans won't. There's already a lot of emphasis being put on government spending and the deficit right now. Arguably, it's why the Democrats lost a seat in the senate in Massachusetts last month. MA is probably the most liberal state in the country, so it was a pretty big upset. However, giving that seat to a Republican lost the Democrats their 3/5 super majority in the senate, thus derailing their plans to pass a health care bill that would have greatly increased government spending. Why is this important? A couple reasons. One reason is that without a super majority, Democrats can't force cloture on a filibuster allowing Republicans to talk endlessly about a bill, preventing the house from ever coming to a vote on it. Another reason the current political climate matters is that Democrats may fear losing more ground to Republicans (which may be inevitable at this point). Obama has already shifted his focus to address increasing concerns about employment and government spending, which was evident during his State of the Union Address last month. Given the hostility towards frivolous government spending right now, some Democrats may be hesitant to support the bill. Especially Democrats from more traditionally conservative areas. But anything is possible. You never know what the clowns in our government will do next!

What are private members' bills? I don't really know how bills are passed in GB. I learned years ago in my comparative government class in high school but it's been a while.
Actually, bills can be passed by a majority of a quorum. In the Senate a quorum can be as few as 26 members although such shenanigans seldom work. The President of the Senate (the Vice President of the US) or his stand-in (the President Pro Tem of the Senate) can easily prevent a tiny majority like this from passing legislation against the interests of the United States...or at least, against the wishes of the current majority.

The lack of infrastructure to support book readers can easily be solved if schools pre-load SD cards with the required texts for the students--and, of course, choose book readers with SD slots. Using book readers might be allowed without a separate bill for school districts that can show how they can use book readers to improve educational outcomes under the educational reforms (being called Race to the Top) currently being hashed out in Congress.
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Old 02-13-2010, 10:35 AM   #8
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I am for putting a book in a young person's hand any way that we can get it therre. My concern is I can beatly get my 13 year old to pick up a hard cover or paperback, I even tried loading books on his computer so I'm not sure that giving them a reader would motivate this any better.
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Old 02-13-2010, 10:45 AM   #9
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Actually with the right E-reader, and the Project Gutenburg books on SD cards, you really wouldn't need a PC for it to work. Have the option to swap the SD card with the books you've read for another SD card with new authors.

Plus most of these kids have at least some computer access at school.
So they could go get Funke's Inkheart, or whatever they are interested in.
And get it on their ereader.

Now as to if the government should be doing this the way they are doing it, that is a horse of another color. IMO this should be done at the local library/School level. Funded by a blend of National, state and local governments.
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Old 02-13-2010, 10:47 AM   #10
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Our pork barrels are filled a bit differently. In the USA, you convince a member of Congress or a Senator to stick a piece of detritus into an unrelated bill...
Yea, in the UK the bill's scope is defined by it's "long name". So for example the "Digital Economy Bill" (it's "short name") is formally:

"A Bill To

Make provision about the functions of the Office of Communications; to make provision about the online infringement of copyright, about licensing of copyright and performers’ rights and about penalties for infringement; to make provision about internet domain registries; to make provision about the functions of the Channel Four Television Corporation; to make provision about the regulation of television and radio services; to make provision about the regulation of the use of the electromagnetic spectrum; to amend the Video Recordings Act 1984; to make provision about public lending right in relation to electronic publications; and for connected purposes."


So you couldn't stick, say, something on gambling in there. (To pick a real example that made me go "wtf!" in America) I completely understand your soapbox, and feel the long names are a good idea, because they prevent hijacking.

But anyway, I'd not mind if they specified that the reader had to read standard-compliant files (ePub and PDF), had standard USB connectors and SD slots and was not tied into any single vendor...

Last edited by DawnFalcon; 02-13-2010 at 10:49 AM.
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Old 02-13-2010, 03:12 PM   #11
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Old 02-13-2010, 03:23 PM   #12
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coughcough... http://www.mobileread.com/forums/sho...hlight=schools ....coughcough...I'm just sayin'...
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Old 02-13-2010, 04:12 PM   #13
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....hehehehe...it was bound to actually happen. And I still feel it's a great idea, whoever the device vendor and the content provider...that is all back-room negotiations.
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Old 02-13-2010, 04:34 PM   #14
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You have more chance of cash supporting the construction of missiles or nukes in the USA than you do anything which helps under privileged kids!

It's a great idea but there is no way congress would get behind such a bill. Republicans wouldn't give it a snowballs chance. They need an ee-pc kind of deal with e-readers for US kids where you pay 25% more for a Kindle and some kid gets a 'kindle lite' which is basically a very feature light but functional weight reader..
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