With the announce of the new and updated Kindle, Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) may have offhandedly and with little fanfare cleared away their largest hurdle to being considered a valid teaching tool. Earlier this year, courts ruled that the use of Kindle devices in the classroom was discriminatory against students with disabilities since navigation of menus via the popular text-to-speech option was unavailable and therefore the device was effectively inaccessible to the visually impaired. Today, if you look toward the very bottom of all the feature lists on the sales page, you can find a quietly inserted “Voice Guide” for menus that will lead users through navigation in exactly the way they were told was necessary.
So, can we expect to be seeing eBook-based curricula and eReaders on the student shopping lists in the near future? It’s difficult to say for certain, but chances aren’t great in most places. Given the new features, and especially the $139 pricing of the Kindle WiFi, it seems a more viable option than ever before for new students. It will take years for it to truly establish a presence, however. Doing analytical reading on such a device requires completely different notation habits than are currently espoused by most students and professors, so our most likely early adopters in the education scene are going to be incoming students without much in the way of established habits. I think it’s going to happen, especially in the humanities, but it’ll take time and exposure, since there’s more to academic reading than simply turning the pages and enjoying yourself.