"No more lessons, no more books, no more teachers' dirty looks." With the end of the school year fast approaching, that old student refrain takes on new meaning as traditional textbooks seem on their way out. Both Japan and the United States serve as cases in point.

Recognizing that paper textbooks are an anachronism for today's students, an education ministry panel wants to promote the use of digital textbooks. They would be used strictly as a supplement in most subjects at first, with the option to make them the primary textbook over time.

Presently, Japan's elementary, junior high and high schools are required by law to adopt only those textbooks that have passed a government screening process. Therefore, the law will have to be amended to include digital textbooks, which have even greater potential to inculcate knowledge in students and shape their attitudes.