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.

Kindle at College

One of the advantages to being in a town with a large college presence, let alone spending large amounts of time on the campuses, is the opportunity to informally poll students and get a first-hand account of the happenings in whatever field you happen to be curious about in the field of your choice.  I figured this would be useful for all you college students stuck in the Kindle vs nook vs iPad debate.  Depending on who I manage to run into, I’ll update this list from as more students from more fields become available!

Today’s accounts are taken entirely from a university satellite campus in the northwest suburbs of Chicago.  Everybody I talked to was an active user of at least one device in academic settings.

Kindle vs nook:

Kelli, an English Undergrad, said:

I was basically looking at what would save me money on everything I had to use.  I knew I was going to get whichever one I wanted from my parents to help me out, but for books and things I was stuck with student loans.  I narrowed it down to either the nook or the Kindle 3.  They both looked good, but I got the Kindle because they had a thing where you could get ebooks from other places sent to your Kindle by emailing them.  That made things really easy.  It’s a little annoying to have to have to carry around a notebook inside my Kindle case(It looked to me like she had this one), but I doubt any of the others make note taking any easier and I saved a load by getting mostly free kindle books in all my Lit classes.

Kindle DX PDF Reading:

Markus, a Biology Undergrad, said:

My girlfriend got me one of these because she knows I love to read, but I would rather just pick up a book.  It’s just more fun to feel the paper and smell the book.  Last semester, though, I picked it up off the shelf when my printer broke in the middle of printing off articles for class.  One of my profs had the bright idea that sending us lots of articles would save on our book costs.  Apparently cheap laser printers don’t like printing hundreds of pages per hour.  Anyway, I loaded everything I had left onto the DX and decided to make the best of it until they sent the printer back to me.  By the time it finally showed up, I didn’t really case anymore.  This thing is the perfect size for reading pretty much anything, it zooms in on charts and photos, and you never have to worry about where you set down the paper you were halfway through last night.  I still do all my pleasure reading on dead trees, but I tell everybody to try a large screen Kindle.

Kindle for PC and Mac:

John, a Professional Studies Undergrad, said:

I haven’t quite talked myself into getting the physical Kindle yet, though it looks really cool.  Right now I’m doing pretty well using the software Amazon put out for my Macbook.  It’s easy to use and I can save what I was doing and all the notes I took.  Hell, I even go home for the weekend and know where I stopped reading when I use my parents’ computer and can get some homework done.  I tried out the nookStudy software and it was really nice, but I felt like it was just too bulky and tried to do too much all at once.  Plus it kept trying to redownload my books every time I wanted to read them.  What if I want to save some battery life and turn off the wireless connection?!

Kindle DX vs iPad:

Taquisha, an Early Childhood Ed Undergrad, said:

People in the program tried to get me hooked on the Kindle DX for like an entire semester.  It’s cool, the page turning isn’t nearly as horrible as I thought it would be at first, but even when I got one of my own I ended up sending the thing back.  You can’t use something like that when you’re working with little kids.  It’s durable, but they just don’t care.  All it’s good for is hitting stuff with, as far as they’re concerned.  I finally saved up the extra money and upgraded to an iPad and it works much better.  I can play games with them, show little movies, make slide shows, and still be able to just load the Kindle iPad app when I want to read a book.  Everybody was telling me it’d be bad for my eyes, but I just turn it off for a little while when mine get sore and I’m fine.  I’d definitely say to only go for the Kindle if you want to read on it alone.  It doesn’t help at all when you’re working with kids or in groups.

Well, believe me, there’s plenty more.  Kindles, nooks, iPads, netbooks, and even the occasional less popular eReader are becoming staples of the modern college classroom and it’s not likely to change.  The convenience, especially for students with dozens of online articles to read or several huge textbooks to carry from class to class without a chance to set things down, cannot be beaten. I’ll try to come up with some fresh reviews from another campus some time soon.  It’ll be interesting to have some first hand accounts of how these devices stack up as midterms and such put the pressure on their owners.

Kindle in Education

Kindle 3

Amazon Kindle 3

When I was in high school about 10 years ago, the only solution to avoid lugging around super heavy books was to make extra trips to your locker, or use a rolling book bag.  Rolling book bags should have been more adequately named “rolling hazards.”

Clearwater High School students just got their own personalized Kindles Thursday that are set to replace their textbooks.  It is amazing how quickly the Kindle can solve that problem, huh?  Each student got a Kindle that was programmed with their own class schedule.  They can take notes, look up words in the device’s built in dictionary and use the text to speech feature.

As far as cost goes, the Kindles have saved the school money because it has cut the cost of books.  A Kindle is a natural fit for high school students because they are already so technology savvy with texting, Facebook and other technologies.  The Kindle makes reading and education so much more engaging and exciting.

My question is, how well will these students take care of their Kindles?  Regular textbooks are cheaper to replace and often suffer a great deal of wear and tear.  Having a Kindle might just teach the students how to be more responsible because electronics can’t take the amount of wear and tear that regular books can.

I’m surprised that the Kindle DX has not had as much success on college and university campuses so far.  I guess it is because are just not that many textbooks available yet.  There are ways to digitize textbooks, but they can require destroying the book.  It would also not be very cost effective in the end to digitize the book on your own.

It does look promising though that textbooks will soon be available digitally.  For science majors especially, who have to lug around really big, expensive books, that would be a lifesaver.

Plastic Logic’s new flexible, low-power e-ink display

plastic logicThin and flexible e-ink displays is one the advances that has been a long time coming. Plastic Logic hopes to bring us this amazing technology by 2009, a cross between the Kindle and actual paper.

Spun off from Cambridge University in 2000, Plastic Logic is now based in Mountain View, California, since 2000 they have been working hard to produce a semi-transparent sheet of tough plastic which can create and erase static images. Plastic Logic haven’t mastered animation yet, but they don’t think it will be too long before they do.

Whilst its headquarters are in Mountain View, California, it also has a manufacturing centre in Dresden, Germany, which is scheduled to open in September 2008. Plastic Logic says its product will be on the market in early 2009.

The company has taken over $200 million in funding to date, and other $50 million funding earlier this year, so all those investors will want to see what products Plastic Logic can come up with.

The obvious application is newspapers and magazines, whether it will be economically feasible for newspapers to ‘print’ on this new generation of e-ink displays is another matter. One possible way of turning a profit for the newspapers could be to sell monthly subscription, with a built in wireless receiver, the flexible display could receive updates for a month before asking the user to renew their subscription. But, I think the most likely–and most profitable–application will be displaying ads on posters and billboards.

You can watch a demonstration of the new e-ink displays provide by Plastic Logic;

Princeton University to publish Kindle textbooks

Princeton University Press

Princeton University Press has announced that it will start publishing Kindle edition textbook this fall, according to Inside Higher Education, Princeton will follow other prominent educational establishments like Yale, Oxford and UC Berkeley in offering Kindle edition textbooks to students and faculty. Depending on the success, more university are likely to follow.

The Kindle seems like the ideal device which would appeal to the university demographic more so than any other gadget out there, students and faculty can both benefit from the Kindle. Image if every student had a Kindle, all the course lectures and textbooks could be downloaded the instant they were available, with the amount of reading an average student goes through in an average semester they may be grateful for a device which can help them reduce the weight in the already heavy bags. And university lecturers could add reading material for next week lecture which could be automatically downloaded to a students Kindle, just like a newspaper.

With Kindles search feature students can easily find the right passages instead of searching through the library archives for 3 hours, it can be noted, annotated and bookmarked for later reference.

Anything that help with learning and education gets the thumbs up from us

Source: cnet