It will be some years before Ontario follows California’s lead and starts phasing out school textbooks to replace them with digital media, Premier Dalton McGuinty said yesterday.

Toronto trustee Michael Coteau wants the school board to start phasing out hard-copy textbooks in middle and secondary schools within five years to save publishing costs.

McGuinty said that will likely happen eventually, but he’s worried not enough families are equipped to make the switch to digital media.

School boards can explore the idea to see if savings from not printing textbooks could be used to pay for netbooks or electronic book readers for students, added McGuinty.

“It’s up to the board to take a look at those kinds of things,” he said.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger introduced a program last year to have the state stop buying textbooks and instead give students free digital copies. The plan calls for the state to develop digital open-source textbooks for high school math and science and make them available for free at public schools.

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