According to the state’s top education official, West Virginia public schools within a few years might switch from hardbound textbooks to digital lessons carried around by students on portable computers, reports the Charleston Daily Mail. "Textbooks will be a thing of the past," said state schools Superintendent Steve Paine. Paine said textbooks could be replaced with digital instructional material created or customized by the state education department, business partners, and a Wikipedia-style portal for educators. The new material would be distributed to students on laptops or handheld electronic devices. The switch, which Paine believes could begin in about five years, could help the state keep down the cost of learning material and give local educators greater control over what children are taught. The $4 billion-a-year schoolbook industry is currently dominated by three powerful publishers that many educators say create products aimed to please customers in a handful of large markets. "Who is to say their content experts are any more expert than people who reside in West Virginia?" Paine said. He estimates that within five years, some of the state’s school districts are going to start using money currently set aside for textbooks to move to "a digital environment." "Think about the cost savings. We spend, what, $100 a book?" Paine said…

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