Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Kindle 2 and DX Go to School

  Advanced Placement English students at Ninety Six High School in Greenwood, South Carolina, are going book free in favor of using Kindle 2's.
  Index Journal's Felicia Kitzmiller reports on the district's recent purchase of 25 Amazon Kindle 2's for classroom use.
"I have one personally, and I love it,” assistant superintendent for instruction Rhonda McDowell said. "We want to be on the cutting edge of technology.

McDowell said that in the long run the Kindles might save the district money on purchasing books.  She feels that e-textbooks are "considerably less costly than the books themselves, and for every one text they purchase, they receive six electronic copies."

  This is generally true for up to 6 people sharing one Kindle account via one accountholder, including families, housemates, or friends.

  "And once a text has been added to a Kindle it is there until it is deleted, so classes reading the same books can use them over and over again."

University of Wisconsin students begin their own Kindle pilot program.
' Instead of having students purchase books, UW lent the Kindles with all eight required texts loaded and ready to read.  [History professor Jeremi] Suri's class will be highlighted by Leo Tolstoy's "War and Peace," infamous for its hefty 1,200 pages.

"We're learning in this, too.  Can you even read 1,200 pages on a Kindle?" Suri said. '
The $10,000 pilot program is funded by their library, involves 20 students, and although Amazon partnered with several other schools, the University wanted to invest in the technology now and get its own data.  They usually spend $700/year on textbooks, but the $500 Kindle DX may save them money, long-range.

 One student likes the lack of eyestrain from the e-ink screen because the experience feels closer to reading on paper than on a computer screen but she finds the small keyboard impractical.
  Also mentioned was that the university prints about 16 million individual pages, between instructors and students, per year.  This would cut down on that and save about 180 trees.

In a PressofAtlanticCity.com's article describing the greed behind the ridiculous pricing of textbooks, the column eventually focuses on lower cost and sometimes free textbooks available.
One big positive of free books is that it gets you out of the horribly exploitative textbook market," wrote Fullerton College professor Ben Crowell in an e-mail. "It's just a scandal that they're charging students as much as $250 for an organic chemistry book, and bringing out a new edition every three years in order to kill off the used book market."

The Yale-educated physics professor began his digital textbook 12 years ago, when his lecture notes "gradually morphed" into a book. His interest in the open-source operating system Linux convinced him that free was the way to go, and his textbook is available for anyone to use at www.lightandmatter.com.

  More than 40 colleges and high schools have adopted the book, according to the Web site.

1.  Cowell's site at www.theassayer.org  Also, Light and Matter
2.  The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's open courseware site - MIT course materials (textbook and lectures on video) - Free, but no course-credit is given.
3.  Flat World Knowledge, run by former Prentice Hall Business Publishing executives Eric Frank and Jeff Shelstaad, decided to release digital textbooks online for free and sell the extras, such as print copies and study guides.
 Frank says that "About 70 percent of the students who have used the site for class buy products, spending a little more than $30 each, he said. About 40 percent paid about $40 for a printed black-and-white textbook with study aides."
 Another professor appreciates the flexibility of the company's e-books in that professors can rearrange or remove content as appropriate.
4. CourseSmart has an interesting offering although it's not practical on the iPhone as explained vividly by The New York Times's Randall Stross recently.
  Essentially they sell access to e-textbooks for about half the cost of the print version but for only 180 days.
  They have over 7,000 titles while Flat World Knowledge has only 11, but sales for the latter were up 600 percent from last year.

Currently, for a place like Reed College, Amazon pricing for textbooks saves only a few dollars, but Matt Ringle, the Chief Technology Officer there, says
""We're reaching that point where the cost of conventional textbooks has become so astronomical that anybody that provides any relief ... is going to be favorably received by the students."

  After seeing that the publishers for the Ted Kennedy book have decided not to release it on the Kindle for fear of losing hard-cover sales (and "The Last Symbol" initially was not set for release on the Kindle for the same reason),
Mike Elgen wrote:
"Publishers need to start viewing eBooks as a business, rather than a threat.  And they need to start thinking about ways to give readers what they want, rather than getting money by withholding from readers what they want.
  Publishers ... it's time for you to embrace the book business.  The story business.  The culture business.  The education business."
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  1. Interesting post, Andrys. I'm a little surprised (but pleasantly encouraged) by the fact that public institutions are jumping in "on their own dime" so relatively early in this cycle of the e-reader phenomenon. That sort of demonstrated commitment could well spur more civic donors to engage in some joint public-private ventures. Take care.

  2. Batman,
    Good point as always. The Kindle Chronicles podcast this week has an interview with the Massachusetts library that ordered a few Kindles and Len video'd their loan process.

    I have to watch that and will make a link to the podcast on my blog this week.

    Currently at the top of the page

    I don't think I mentioned I'm going to Egypt and Petra for 3 wks soon, and have about 40 hours of DVD lectures to get through - they are really fascinating. It's really only 24 hours but I rewind and relisten a lot so the time doubles. Not to mention reading several books on it to get more detail.

    So I can't keep up with anything!

  3. Andrys,

    I actually listened to that TKC episode last night, which put the idea of the public-private partnership in my head when I read your post. My university also lends Kindles, but I haven't seen any public libraries in my city do so yet. As with many locales, our budget situation right now isn't even allowing for basic items like upkeep of public parks :( , which is why I'm particularly impressed with those cities that are able to undertake such projects.

    Hope you enjoy your trip to Egypt! I have to admit to a little envy; I met a friend from Port Said this spring, but the chance to visit is unlikely to happen anytime soon. So hopefully you'll have a travelogue of some type to share upon your return. Catch you later.

  4. Ah, okay.
    Philly came through for the libraries, I see. Their decision to close all public libraries (from what some friends said) woke some people up.

    As long as the photos turn out, they'll join my other travelogues (I get to travel only every few years, saving up etc.) at http://www.pbase.com/andrys

  5. Hi Andrys,

    Welcome back! I saw this story today and thought you might be interested in the update:


    I must confess that I haven’t thought as much about the accessibility issues when considering the readiness of Kindle for in-class use. I haven’t had a visually-impaired student in my class before, but have had a couple of deaf students. In those cases our university provided assistive aid in the form of two interpreters who took turns signing for the students. However, assigning a helper might not be cost efficient for the amount of time that a student would be engaged in turning on that function. And unless there is some way to make the Kindle keyboard more user-friendly for sighted and non-sighted customers alike, I don’t see a keyboard interface (like the current “(Up Arrow)-Sym” keystroke combination) being very practical, either. I wonder how possible/practical it would be to add another slider button like the On-Off-Sleep switch to activate Text-To-Speech? Perhaps that’s such an obvious alternative that it’s already been considered and rejected. Your thoughts?

  6. I tweeted earlier tonight the following: "Interesting pro&con forum-talk re National Federation of the Blind campaign against the #Kindle in universities http://bit.ly/k4nfb "

    Considering Intel just made a dedicated one for $1500 ( http://www.tomshardware.com/news/Intel-Reader-ereader-Blind-Dyslexic,9046.html ),
    they may be asking too much, but the forum-thread has others making good points for the NFB position.

    I loved what you said about the keyboard becoming more user-friendly for the sighted too!

    Besides a switch to turn things on, they'd need to be able to select from a list. I guess the voice would read the menu too. I have no idea. One would hope for a short listing, not to mention folders.

    For a mass market item, asking 100% accessibility for the blinkd makes no sense to me. I think they should ask for a dedicated model, separate and more expensive because of the additional features.

    I think, actually, they should just make sure the university classes also include textbooks they can scan as before and page numbers along with location numbers.


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