Amazon Kindle for education

Recently I had the good fortune to attend the IMS Learning Impact Conference at Long Beach CA. While I was there I ran out of reading material and tried to find a bookstore. Well, things have changed since the last time I was there (what with the demise of some major bookstore chains) and I was unable to find a good bookstore. In the end I found myself at a Best Buy store looking at e-readers. Amazon had this special on the Kindle with special offers. At a great price, it looked very good and a great solution to my lack of access to some decent books – so I bought one.
I must say that after about an hour’s use I knew I had made a rash decision. ‘special offers’ turned out to be a discounted Kindle with ads to subsidize the price. There were ads across the bottom of the screen, ads in place of the screensaver and annoying as they were, I knew it was going to get a whole lot worse when I got home as they were American ads and well, I don’t live in the USA.
Fortunately for me Best Buy has a great returns policy so I returned the device and upgraded it to the 3G version (wish Australian retailers had the same attitude towards customer service).
What a transformation! No more ads and free worldwide access to 3G networks. Think about that for a moment and the potential it offers for education. No more paper text books to weigh kids backpacks down and no traffic costs for downloading content. Now if only education could get it’s act together and negotiate something like that.
I have never really given much thought to e-readers and have had an iPad instead however they are completely different experiences. The Kindle leaves the iPad in it’s wake when it comes to reading texts. Sure the iPad can do a whole lot more but for the simple use case of delivering text books to students and readability there is no comparison. I have several apps on my iPad for reading but none of them come close.
The only downside I have experienced so far is the woeful keyboard (although you don’t use it much). Lining all the keys up vertically as well as horizontally just doesn’t work. Touch typists will find it a nightmare. The keys themselves are concave which has the unfortunate characteristic of always catching a light reflection making it very difficult to see the letter on the key (which is hard to see anyway given the lack of contrast to the Kindle surface) which you tend to rely on given the awkward alignment of the keys. For me the keyboard is a usability disaster.
Overall though these things would be fantastic in a classroom in place of paper textbooks (especially the 3G version if you could get access to curriculum texts). They are at a price point well below iPads and while they do a lot less, they really deliver on the functionalty they were designed for. 

Cheers,
Jerry
Ps and after all that I found a good bookstore near Best Buy.

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