A Toronto high school is ditching printed textbooks in favour of digital ones in a move the school head says will boost learning while saving money and the environment.

Blyth Academy is ordering about 350 Sony Readers and loaning them to students for free.


The touch-screen devices give students access to textbooks, outlines, assignments, reference materials, background reading and personal timetables. It will also hook them up with 500,000 free books via Google’s Sony e-Bookstore, the school says.

“The digital content we’ve acquired, coupled with the students’ Sony Readers, will dramatically improve student access to textbooks, collateral material, literature and reading in general,” said Sam Blyth, chairman of Blyth Academy. “Our student survey shows that they are twice as likely to read a book available in an e-book format as in hard-copy form.”

The move will save each pupil about $700 a year on books and means they no longer have to lug a stack to and from school every day.

“Our students love the technology — they love reading off the electronic readers,” Blyth says.

“They’re colourful, interactive, they’ve got audio, they’ve got visuals, they will stream video. It’s just a much better way to learn.”

The Readers are about the size of a big paperback and the writing looks like ink, but if a reader is stumped by a word the embedded Oxford English Dictionary will tell them what it means.


Students can also highlight text and take notes via a touch keyboard or a stylus.

Students quickly spotted its potential green factor, too. “One student said to me, ‘If every student in the country took their textbooks in an electronic form, it would save hundreds of thousands of acres of trees,’” Blyth says.

In the future, he’s hoping to see real-time live tutoring, so if a math problem puzzles you, you can click a link and connect to a tutor 24-hours a day, seven days a week. The e-books will eventually be able to read to students, a big help for someone learning English or with learning difficulties.

“We’re excited about how the Sony Reader can enhance a student’s learning experience,” says Tim Algate of Sony Canada. “We’ll be listening to these students and using their feedback to evolve our Reader offering for education.”