The CITE, a blog published by the National Association of College Stores, takes a look at the intersection of education and technology, highlighting issues that range from course materials to learning delivery to the student experience. Comments, discussion, feedback, and ideas are welcome.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Amazon Kindle and Textbooks

The industry is buzzing about the possible debut of a large screen Kindle this week. Sources such as Computerworld and All Things Digital are reporting that Amazon has scheduled a press event for Wednesday at Pace University in New York City to announce the launch of the new device. At this point, the exact intentions for the large screen Kindle are somewhat unclear. The New York Times says that the device will be “tailored for displaying newspapers, magazines and perhaps textbooks” while The Wall Street Journal says it was “designed to appeal to periodical and academic textbook publishers.” The WSJ article goes on to say that Amazon has worked out agreements with several textbook publishers as well as six universities that will participate in a Kindle pilot beginning this fall. The universities include: Case Western Reserve University, Pace, Princeton, Reed, Darden School at the University of Virginia, and Arizona State. In an article out on Engadget, we see that the new Kindle device, to be named the Kindle DX, will have a 9.7” display. The site has several pictures of the device expected to be announced tomorrow.

Many sources are also speculating about how this device could affect the publishing industry and if it could really help save struggling newspapers and magazines. An article from Computerworld points out that while publishers could benefit from the ability to charge for subscriptions, it is unclear how a subscription model will succeed when content is available for free via the internet. The Silicon Alley Insider adds, “no matter how big the Kindle screen is, electronic subscriptions are not going to save the likes of the New York Times.” Additionally, due to the black and white screen, the device can really only display newspapers and some periodicals because replicating any glossy magazine would require a color screen. In terms of educational material, coursepacks and some textbooks may display reasonably well but the majority of textbooks require color for illustrations and diagrams. It is questionable if students will really be willing to purchase a black and white device such as this. A posting on Thad Mcilroy’s blog comments, “who really believes that students are going to carry into their classes a notebook computer (or smaller) that allows them to surf the web, Twitter, provide online messaging, save their personal files and photos and a hundred other features — a device which they already own — and then purchase an additional black & white only device, albeit with a web browser, and be thankful they can leave books at home and read them instead on a device clearly inferior to their notebook or netbook (which can easily display the same material)?” It will be interesting to see what the large screen Kindle is intended for and the agreements that have been worked out. A posting on ZDNet uses NACS data to talk about how this is more about textbooks than newspapers or magazines. However, regardless of the exact intentions, it looks as though Amazon will be among the first to release a large screen device targeted to academic purposes, anyone willing to take bets on the impact to college stores over the next two academic years?

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