Thinking about the Kindle Update Features Academically

Something I didn’t consider at first, but probably should have, when I saw the details of the Kindle 3.1 software update this week was that it seems to introduce features highly applicable to improved use in classrooms.  Admittedly, there are a variety of different ways to use all of these things, but this one stands out.  Bear with me for a second.

The most highly publicized feature, the “Real Page Numbers”, isn’t exactly as natural a thing as it seems.  There’s not really such a thing as standardized pagination between editions of a book.  If you grab a paperback and a hardcover of the same title, you can’t exactly expect to see page correlation.  It’s actually more shocking when it’s there.  The same can be true of two paperbacks purchased years apart.  Where you need to have that consistency, though, is in a large group all actively discussing the same book.  Usually that means a classroom.  Besides the occasional book club, there simply aren’t that many non-academic reasons where you would need an actual corresponding page number.  Now, I’m not talking about how nice it is or how enjoyable it is to users.  That’s another discussion.  But this is definitely one place where it will be extremely functional.

The other big point, at least as far as I’m choosing to prioritize the new features, is the Public Notes option.  Now, I love being able to share notes with friends.  It’s even amazing to have the option of such an interesting mode of author/reader interaction.  But where I see the potential is in professional annotation.  One of the biggest problems I’ve heard of over and over again on college campuses, with eReaders in general and the Kindle in particular, was the inability to make use of scholarly editions of popular texts from Norton and the like.  This would open up the ability to do something like that, probably with the option to toggle such notes on and off, and even let it be dynamically updated should the need arise.  Accomodating, to say the least.

Also related, though I doubt it was so much as a consideration in the formation, is the revised magazine formatting.  It’s definitely easier to navigate things now that the quickie snapshot is available for moving around with.  Since the screen doesn’t exactly lend itself to advertising anyway, I’ve always felt that the potential was greater for journal publications than popular magazines anyway.  This just makes it that much better.  Do I see anybody falling all over themselves to adopt the new format?  Not really.  That doesn’t make it a bad idea though, and I’d like more publishers to see the potential.

Now, after looking at it a lot i really don’t think that any of this besides maybe the page numbering could be said to be directed specifically at the usefulness of the Kindle in schools.  That doesn’t make it any less applicable though.  Moves like these will make a lot of progress for Amazon when they try once again to break into the Academic scene.

2 thoughts on “Thinking about the Kindle Update Features Academically

  1. I have one concern
    the Kindle DX
    as of right now, the latest gen kindles can get a preview of the firmware update, but not the DX

    As of right now its almost impossible to find DX accessories on amazon, it seems like they may be quietly discontinuing support for the product.

    I bought the original DX for nearly $500, a month later the price dropped drastically
    a couple months after that, the new Screen tech and other features were released.

    shortly thereafter, the latest gen kindles.

    Am i going to be left in the wayside on this one?

  2. I agree that the page numbers are a very welcome addition to the Kindle but unfortunately how Amazon accomplished the page number addition only delays the inevitable decision about the future of page numbers in the digital age, it doesn’t solve the problem. Amazon added the page numbers by choosing a specific edition of each book and correlating the text on a Kindle page with a specific page number.

    That only postpones the discussion. What happens to the “born digital” books that will likely become more and more a part of out future? These books won’t exist on paper. Hopefully the technical people at Amazon are at work on a solution for this problem.

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