"You can delivery it via the Internet. You can deliver it on a ebook. You can put it on a CD ROM. You can do what's best for the capabilities of the students and for what you're trying to teach."
Hochberg authored the new law that gives the state and school districts permission to go digital. Before, the state had inflexible contracts with publishers like McGraw Hill. It would spend lots of money on an a social studies book for example, but the information would be outdated before the books were replaced, usually about six or seven years later.
"Even after we pay a billion dollars for it, they still own the material and we can't do anything with it. And this way we save the taxpayers a huge amount of money and actually get a product that's a lot more versatile and a lot more productive. And there's no reason we should have to buy Shakespeare from McGraw Hill every six years, because the book wears out. I mean that was fine when the only technology was a book."
Buying the rights to a book instead of buying the book itself could save the state more than 200 million dollars a year. Districts would be able to use that money for other things. Nicole Ware- Smith manages the huge warehouse where HISD stores its textbooks. Even though students may soon read Charlotte's' Webb or Moby Dick on a laptop, she believes hardbacks will never be obsolete.
"I don't think we'll ever get away from not having any hardbound text books, because some students just study better that way. They need access to something that they can physically put their hands on and see."
Each year HISD forms committees that decide which books the district will purchase for the upcoming school year. This year, the committees can decide to bypass the publishers all together and buy the rights to a book. Whether it ends up on a memory card, a CD or a hard drive is up to the teacher.