We might be one step closer to a fully digital classroom if California State University and The Nature Publishing Group have their way about things. The two have paired up to bring us a step closer to the reality by agreeing to a three-year partnership in support of a Principles of Biology textbook.

Our challenge this week at TNW was to find topics relevant to technology in education and none has been closer to me personally than this — Let’s kill the textbook. The goal with this partnership is to do just that, by introducing the “born digital” publication into three of CSU’s campuses first, but then making it available to other universities in time for 2011’s Fall semester in September.

According to the information that I’ve seen so far:

As a “born digital” product, Principles of Biology will be accessible to students and instructors via web browsers on desktops, laptops, tablet computers and smartphones, and will retail at $49 per student. Students will have the rights to self-print a color copy of the textbook.

But it’s more than just a textbook. CSU and NPG are promising over 175 interactive lessons, too, in order to facilitate self-learning. Licensing for the book can be handled a few different ways, either by allowing access to any student enrolled at a school, by a distribution through the campus book store or via online access for distance education students.

princbio1 220x275 The Next Education: A $49, web based textbook is coming princbio2 220x275 The Next Education: A $49, web based textbook is coming

Ultimately it raises the problem of access, considering that there are still those who don’t have home computer access, much less a tablet. But when you consider that an entire semester’s receipts for textbook rental could tally in excess of $6-700, the lowered financial barrier to entry could make a tablet purchase more feasible for some students.

Solving one problem while raising another. It’s a conundrum in which this digital-era solution is not alone. We’ve seen it time and again across other technologies, but at least this time your backback will be a few pounds lighter.