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Publishers slam online textbooks

JAKARTA (JP): Free online materials are not the answer forstudents seeking more affordable schoolbooks. In fact, it couldcause trouble in the future, publishers said Friday.

The Indonesian Publishers Association (Ikapi) said agovernment plan to provide online textbooks would not reduce thecost of books for students.

Dion P. Sihotang, who heads Ikapi's research and developmentdivision, said while publishers could trim book prices by usingcheaper paper, other people would end up paying more bydownloading and printing learning materials themselves, due tothe cost of Internet access and binding services, as well asfewer paper choices.

He said the effort to get textbooks ready to use would takeextra time and energy.

"You'll have to spend time on downloading those materials,chapter by chapter, perhaps over a slow Internet connection. Andyou'll have to do this several times to get all of your booksprinted," Dion told The Jakarta Post.

Not only will people have to spend time printing thematerials, he said, but also with having them bound.

"At the end, everyone will get fussed," he said.

Caroline Morgan of the International Federation ofReproduction Rights Organization in Australia said the onlinetextbook program could hurt the way students look at books, too.

"How can students respect books when they're just printingeach page as they need it?" she told the press in a discussionwith Ikapi here.

The government is carrying out the "book reform program",which includes buying copyrights to standardized textbooks usedfrom grade school to senior high levels. The program seesmaterials being available online for free in August.

Sugiyanto, head of the Education Ministry's book division,said earlier the program was supposed to make school textbooksmore affordable.

But Dion showed how the program could prove an extra burden onstudents, teachers and parents needing textbooks.

"How many students or teachers are Internet-literate? How manyof them even own computers and have an Internet connection,especially those who live in remote areas?

"How many people across the country have access to photocopymachines? People may have the money, but without the access theprogram will be useless."

He said the 100 or so Ikapi textbook publishers would agree tosupport the government's cheaper schoolbook initiative, but notnecessarily the strategies that came with it.

Dion disagreed with the notion -- which he attributed to thegovernment -- that publishers merely printed books and thatprinting was inexpensive.

In fact, he said, publishers also spend money on pre-production and distribution.(dia/**)


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