Our corporation is looking into making the transition from textbooks to iPads or something similar. Some of the questions raised have been similar to the ones above. If you look at other corporations as models, though, you can see real-world examples of how something like that could work. Digital literacy is an area that we must address for our students, and the fact is that we must go beyond teaching them to make a PowerPoint. Here are a few of the things I've learned and read from other corporations:
1) iPads and eReaders allow students to "mark" text in the same way as traditional note-taking, highlighting, or sticky notes, and also have a dictionary that pops up when students press and hold a word.
2) Many of the model corporations who have made this move cite SAVING money as a reason to make the transition. Textbooks can run hundreds of dollars, and if you compare the cost of an iPad (approximately $600 with protection plan, wifi capability, and a cover - but also before the bulk discount) to the cost of a new textbook in language arts - grammar and literature, math, science, and social studies, the cost would be at least equivalent if not cheaper for the iPad. When our corporation adopted our last English textbooks, they were markedly more than $100 each. The transition doesn't have to be made all at once - if a corporation equips one or two grade-levels at a time and adds another each year instead of adopting textbooks, the initial expenditure won't be as much of a burden.
3) Corporations already using this technology instead of physical textbooks charge the same rental fee and use this money for maintenance. Replacement cost works the same if damaged or lost.
I don't have all the answers to every concern that might arise, obviously, but I do think that this would be feasible. It would require that teachers be thoroughly trained, however, for it to work. Corporations that just hand the teachers an iPad and say "Good luck!" are just going to fuel resentment, which in the end is just going to prohibit our students from acquiring the preparation they need in 2012.