Kindle or the most recent iPad or any of the lesser known e-book hardware products — if you see beyond screen-sizes, internet capabilities, applications and so forth, these e-books are market-positioned especially for the people who will buy it because they can. You can come up with all reasons why it is as good as a real book or even better — the truth is there’s simply no business case.

So to beef up the story, companies are trying to stuff more into that device — more than a reader, better than a computer, applications, “huge screen” (as Jobs puts it), this and that. Can there be a real use for this extravagant gadget?

Cut. Go to India and see the school going kids. As early as when they are 6 years old, their school bags weigh more than your laptop bag and mine put together. The quantities of textbooks, the enormity of the syllabus are somehow justified by the competition and need to know more things earlier on. In fact, the schools are in India are now at a point where they are consciously reducing the weight of school bags and that is an USP for the school itself.

So here I propose the big idea: Replace children’ school-bags with an iPad.

Not as-is. And I don’t mean the iPad either. Some version of a stripped-down, customized e-book reader is what I meant.


  • All books integrated in one device
  • Parenting-enabled internet access
  • Device can continue past grades
  • Textbooks downloadable through RBAC

Innovation opportunities:

  • Reviews/tests: School level exams can become completely electronic. If not that, at least ‘question paper’ can be made available for download and students can be forced to provide responses on real paper.
  • Open-book tests: Can be done where teachers can decide which parts of the book are open. Potential to completely revamp the system of tests, that currently require memorizing and puking.

Advantages/ Enablers:

  • Don’t need training (don’t your kids know your cell phone / BB / iPhone better than you do?)
  • 90% or more drop in weight of school-bag
  • No dog-ears and no “wear and tear” (except of the device itself, which will be few and far between)
  • Sever fewer trees. School textbooks probably cut more trees than newspapers/magazines do.

Challenge and Responses:

C: It is expensive

R: If you consider the device stays the same through their different grades and consider the health burden of the alternative, it is not expensive. When you read this, don’t picture the Jobs version of iPad, think of the Tablet equivalent of the $100 laptop. Also, remember you don’t have to buy your kids computers or computer games.

C: It is bad for their eyes

R: You are not any worse off compared to your children spending 4 hours a day in front of TV, 2 hrs growing their favorite plants in Farmville.

C: How will my kids learn handwriting?

R: Through the iPad. With character recognition and everything, writing culture can be completely preserved.

C: Kids will be spoiled

R: What?

C: What if they don’t have iPad some point in their life?

R: Schools have started allowing calculators, with the pre-supposition that there won’t be a situation in life when they don’t have a calculator. Now how different is an iPad different from that?

C: So kids just have the luxury of e-books right since they are kids?

R: Yes, there is a certain emotional resistance to being sophisticated. You and I went to school by foot does not mean your kids should. Your school did not have electricity, you did not have TV at home, there was no Facebook or cell phone in your time, you could not afford more than one pair of shoes — none of which should reason why your kid should be deprived of a technological advancement. Life goes on. Get on with it.

Moot points / Demerits:

Following are some of the points I have not been able to nail completely, within the realm of my expertise. Please note I don’t necessarily support the views, just don’t know how to put them down if you came up with one of these.

  • Kids’ handwriting will be better on paper with fountain pen than with stylus
  • Kids will never have a chance to share things in life — pen, pencil, books, notebooks and such
  • Jobs lost and industries disappeared due this transformation (such as publishing etc…). This could even mean some of those kids will have to drop out of school, since their parents can no longer afford it

If you have constructive criticism, please comment.
 Rev 3/18: Corrected two spelling mistakes