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Monday, October 5, 2009

Initial reactions to Kindle DX pilot at Princeton University

A recent article from the Daily Princetonian, reports mixed reviews from students participating in the Kindle DX pilot at the university. Princeton is one of the seven universities that partnered with Amazon to initiate a Kindle DX pilot this semester. The Princeton pilot is known as “Toward Print-Less and Paper-Less Courses: Pilot Amazon Kindle Program” and is part of a sustainability initiative that focuses on reducing the amount of electronic reserve course materials printed by students.

According to the article, the pilot began about two weeks ago and many of the students and faculty have expressed that the Kindles are disappointing and difficult to use. One student commented, “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.”

A professor for one of the courses also discussed the use of location numbers in place of page numbers on the Kindle which is an issue that was mentioned by students in the Arizona State University pilot. The use of location numbers makes it difficult for students to cite sources consistently or locate a certain page.

Other students did express positive reactions to the Kindle DX for its E Ink screen that looks like paper and does not strain eyes as well as the ability to have a large amount of content available without having to carry around several books. As mentioned, the pilot has only been in place for two weeks so student and faculty reactions may change as the semester progresses. We can expect that some or all of the features that students are disappointed with will be modified or enhanced on future textbook e-readers to improve usability and make the devices more appealing to students.

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