If you read my post on the new Kindle DX yesterday, you know that I'm generally irritated with the entire idea of the Kindle at this point. I'd take fellow ZDNet blogger, Jason Perlow's, request for Amazon to "bring down its wall" a step further and suggest that the Kindle, with its proprietary format and general approach to DRM is not actually in the best interest of education, educators, or students.
While I suggested yesterday that we simply need an open standard for textbooks and a solid app to access them, I think it's time for Google to release a Kindle-killer in the educational space. The best application with which to access textbooks is a web browser (assuming you're not a dead-tree, flip the pages, sell your used books purist), and while there are plenty of companies who could deliver this, I can't see any better qualified than Google.
Google has massive book projects, extensive experience with delivering applications in the cloud, and a great platform that lots of K-12 schools and universities have adopted for sharing, collaborating, documenting, and publishing on the web (Google Edu Apps). Why not add "Google Textbook" to it?
Obviously, publishers need to get on the bandwagon, too, but the same is true if Amazon really wants to break into this space with the Kindle. Google Textbook, as a framework for accessing textbooks in the cloud would be a free part of Google Apps, but I have no doubt that the publishers and Google could find plenty of ways to monetize the content.
Look at what the Nature Publishing Group has done with social learning and bringing extensive educational resources to the web. Look just at how far Google Docs has come in terms of a CSS-driven platform for documentation. The tools are already in place and a fundamental shift has already happened in terms of the way we access and interact with information.
It doesn't have to be Google Textbook. It could be Zoho Textbook, or IBM BlueText (I just made that up, but it's catchy, isn't it? IBM certainly has the hardware and the wherewithal to take this on). It really doesn't matter, although I see Google easily being able to integrate this into their existing Edu Apps platform pretty easily. The point is that it's time for a change. The Kindle isn't the answer. The cloud definitely is.