We recently made a Kindle device available to families to borrow and try, in case they were curious about the device. Our cross-departmental technology committee evaluated the device and did not find a compelling reason to consider widespread adoption of the Kindle or other electronic reader devices. We will certainly continue to watch this product niche in the future.
Some Kindle features
The Kindle and other e-readers use a new kind of screen called “digital ink.” As opposed to conventional display screens, digital ink screens do not use a backlight. The screen is easier on the eyes than a laptop screen and remains visible in bright daylight. Because the Kindle is not backlit you can’t use it in the dark without an additional light source.
The Kindle does a good job increasing text size, changing screen direction, and altering the number of words displayed per line.
The Kindle can store up to 1,500 books at one time. It can display documents in the Amazon, Word document, HTML, text, and PDF formats. It can also play MP3 and Audible files. Some file formats require conversion through Amazon’s email system.
The Kindle can read the text on the screen aloud but it does so poorly and really isn’t useful as a text-to-speech tool.
The Kindle includes some bookmarking and annotation features.
Note taking was difficult. It was uncomfortable to use the small keyboard to add text.
The battery lasts a long time—up to two weeks if you don’t make extensive use of the wireless browsing capabilities.
The Kindle includes a web browser and wireless connectivity that uses the same 3G network used by cell phones. There is no charge for the wireless connectivity at this time. The Kindle must be registered in order to use the wireless capabilties.
Books sold by Amazon for the Kindle are sold in a proprietary format that can only be read using Amazon software. Currently, that software is available for the Kindle, Apple’s iPhone, and Microsoft Windows. Amazon is working on software to read Kindle format books on Mac OSX and Blackberries.
Once you register your Kindle device with Amazon, you may purchase additional texts with one click. This could be a liability if you lend your device to someone else.
Some colleges, including Reed, have experimented with using these devices in their instructional program. We do not yet know whether these colleges are planning large-scale adoption. Read about Reed’s experiment.
Other e-readers include the Barnes & Noble Nook and the Sony eReader. Reviewers suggest that they each have their pros and cons.
The Kindle may prove useful to students who seek the convenience of an e-reader or benefit from the additional features such as changing text size. These devices are an example of an emerging technology, and we will watch their capabilities as the technology matures.