As pilot programs at seven universities around the country wrap up their evaluations of the Kindle DX as a viable teaching tool and textbook alternative, we see pretty much the expected results. The eReader that has been such a pleasure to use in leisure is perhaps not quite ready for the academic scene.
Humanities classes, especially Literature classes which it would otherwise seem that the Kindle is ideally suited to, tend to involve active reading aids such as highlighting, annotation, page marking, etc. These habits are built up over years as students work their way through their programs. Most of these options are present in the Kindle software in some form, of course, and the ability to access your changes and notes on any platform is a major plus, but the device itself has a coupe minor shortcomings in speed and input design that haven’t quite been fully worked out yet.
As development continues and successive versions make the Kindle more responsive, feature-packed, and convenient to annotate, we’re sure to see things change. For now, those students who are willing to cope with the minor inconveniences are already enjoying savings of sometimes as much as 75% on texts for their classes, a savings which easily pays for the device itself over the course of a college career.
The small business start up, Kakai has revealed plans for a dual screen device that will rival Kindle for the classroom. This article from Electronista provides a brief overview of the device. It is not a sure thing yet and it isn’t projected to be available for demonstrations for several months. It will be powered by the Linux operating system and feature LCD display instead of the e-ink technology that the Kindle uses. It is said to be both a notepad and e-reader in one with web access and easier textbook downloads. A notepad would be useful for students because it provides an easy way to take notes on the book they are studying.
Overall, the Linux operating system has been a computer techie’s domain because of its fully open source nature. It hasn’t really taken off in the mainstream consumer population. There really aren’t many programs compatible with the operating system at this time. However, it might be a totally different ballgame on an e-reader system.
The Kindle can be quite clunky at times with slow page turns and download speeds. However, the Kindle uses e-ink which supposedly does not cause eye strain like the LCD display does. So that will be an issue that will be interesting to watch in terms of whether it plays any factor in which device is better for educational purposes.