Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Kindles Probably Won't Replace Textbooks Anytime Soon

Princeton students have participated in a test using the Kindle DX in lieu of traditional textbooks. Many of them are less than impressed:
Bad news for Amazon, who's hoping that in the future all college students will read their textbooks through the oversided Kindle DX: the first students to use it, at Princeton, are not fans.

Students taking part in the pilot program have all sorts of complaints about the device, mostly centering around the fact that it's a huge pain to take notes and "interact" with the text. Here's what student Aaron Horvath has to say about it:

"I hate to sound like a Luddite, but this technology is a poor excuse of an academic tool. It's clunky, slow and a real pain to operate. Much of my learning comes from a physical interaction with the text: bookmarks, highlights, page-tearing, sticky notes and other marks representing the importance of certain passages - not to mention margin notes, where most of my paper ideas come from and interaction with the material occurs. All these things have been lost, and if not lost they're too slow to keep up with my thinking, and the ‘features' have been rendered useless.

Yee-ouch! Further complaints include the fact that the lack of concrete page numbers make citing sources a huge pain in the ass and the fact that you need to charge up the battery for it to work. I guess physical textbooks will be around for a while longer, eh? [Daily Princetonian via Engadget]

In my experience with my Kindle, I love it and prefer it over books for linear reading (reading straight through a book). For reference books, anything with charts and graphs, or for a book I would flip through, I prefer physical books over my Kindle. I've been impressed with how well my iPhone works as an eBook reader and find it much easier to navigate through a book than on my Kindle. It also does a much better job displaying graphs, charts, etc.

I'm increasingly convinced that if anything is going to replace a textbook, it will be some form of a tablet computer. If Apple and other manufacturers come up with good tablet designs that get day-long battery life and isn't too hard on the eyes for extended reading, some of the complaints of Princeton students may be overcome.

While I would gladly trade my gargantuan legal case books for electronic versions in a heartbeat, I don't think eBook readers will be replacing books anytime soon. Both will continue to co-exist with preferred contexts for each.

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