Friday, September 17, 2010

Clearwater HS's Kindle program. MotionGaming 101. David Morrell Exclusive, New Twitter

Clearwater High School replaces textbooks with Kindles, for its 2000+ students
In Tampa, Florida, Clearwater High School started its new pilot program Wednesday -- from an order of 2,200 Kindles (UK K3), they issued Kindles to their 2,160 students, with spares for new students.  These are replacing 5 to 6 textbooks each student normally has to carry around.

 Since the price mentioned in articles is $177, they apparently bought the 3G/WiFi model.

The St. Petersburg Times shows the stacks of Kindles in a computer lab, each Kindle with a student's name on it and tailored to the student's course load, which includes English, math, science textbooks and novels.  Naturally, the students are excited about it.

Principal Keith Mastorides said, "I do have a lot of kids who do not have Internet access at home. So this is the first time they'll be on a level playing field."

Other points in the article:
' Students can highlight passages and make notes in books — taboo with traditional textbooks. And the school district has designed a mobile version of PCS Portal, the district's site where students and parents can view classes, grades and more.

  And since each device can access the Internet via wireless connections and a 3G cell tower signal, it will bridge the digital divide, providing Web access for students who previously had none at home, [Mastorides] said.
  He is now getting inquiries from schools within the area, as well as some beyond, that want to know more about the project.
  Tracy Gray, managing director of the American Institute for Research who studies educational innovation, said... "What we are really coming to understand is how students learn using digital media. The students are digital natives who have been born certainly in the last 15 to 20 years and have grown up with technology and are comfortable with it," Gray said.

While many educational institutions have talked about similar ventures, Clearwater High is the first she knows of to attempt replacing textbooks on a large scale, Gray said.

"I have heard many schools talking about this, but I am not aware of a school that has taken this giant step." '

Tampa Bay Online's story has some other details.

 This was done from their Technology and Textbook fund.  Commenters to this story are outraged, since apparently they just see the Kindles as needless gifts, but as with Kindle owners today, the students will probably wind up wanting to read more than they used to.  The irony is that the initial plan was to get each student a computer (as is done in some other schools) but that was - no surprise - deemed too expensive.
' Students will be responsible for lost or damaged Kindles, the same way they are for textbooks, he said.

"When we looked around, we found out the Kindle was the best option," Mastorides said.

The high-tech aspect of the Kindles is a huge lure for students.
"Kids love their technology. We wanted to tap into that," he said.
. . .
Students can buy insurance for $20 to cover damage or loss of the Kindle.  The insurance covers all except a $25 deductable of the $177 replacement cost the first time a student loses or damages one.  A second time the deductable goes to $50.

The district, working with Amazon, can track each Kindle and shut it down if it's stolen or shows up at a pawn shop, or appears on e-Bay ... [That's interesting to know that it can be done, since Amazon is usually hands-off in this area, but the school would qualify as a large client :-) ]

Part of the experiment is to see how many are lost or broken, he said. "We'll have to see how this plays out." '

  The tone of the comments to the story is quite interesting.

UPDATE to Clearwater High School for student reactions
Some comments from students, via Tampa Bay Online:

"It's fun to have electronics to learn.  I think it makes us want to study more without realizing it."

"I'm about to go mess around with my Kindle!"

The story has some additional slants:
One bad reading habit — skipping over big words — can no longer be justified by excuses like, "I didn't have a dictionary."
The device has a built-in dictionary, which displays definitions for highlighted words. "It helps with reading comprehension," said senior Bennie Niles, 17.
. . .
And learning curve? For students who do not know a world without mobile computing, no big deal.

"It's just like texting," said senior Gabrielle Adams, 17, about inputting notes.

"And everybody knows how to text," Niles said.
. . .

The school district is also excited. Beyond the inquiries from schools around the country, and world, about the Kindle's viability in the classroom, there are some slight financial benefits.

John Just, Pinellas County's assistant superintendent for management information systems, said that because of savings on books, the school's English department's wish list was completely fulfilled.

"The English department wish list is always that — a wish list," Just said. "Now they're all downloaded."

These include trendy titles like Superfreakonomics and Into the Wild. '

Amazon's exclusive deal with David Morrell
Ed Renehan's e-publishing blog has succinct summaries of the latest news in the e-publishing world, and it's a must-read.  Most of you already have heard about David Morrell's exclusive deal with Amazon, so I'll add Renehan's summary of the press release here and hope that you will iinvestigate his site.  It has a beautifully clean layout that's a pleasure to browse.
' today announced that internationally bestselling author David Morrell is releasing a new, never-before-published, full-length thriller, 'The Naked Edge,' along with nine of his previously published books, in electronic book format exclusively in the Kindle Store.  This is the first time any of these titles have been available electronically.

  These Kindle editions will offer additional content for many of the books, including new introductions and photographs that reveal insights into the making of these modern classics.  All 10 of these Morrell books are available...for download exclusively from the Kindle Store '

  Here is Amazon's feature story, "David Morell on Kindle," which includes summaries for each of his 10 new Kindle books, with the covers for each displayed.  Also, you can visit his author page to see ALL editions of his works.

Amazon's new Motion Gaming 101 area
This is not exactly Kindle-related but some will be interested to know that Amazon unveiled its new video game store section, Motion Gaming 101, "designed to introduce both game enthusiasts and casual gamers to new choices in motion-gaming technology, which use a player's body movements and gestures to play games."
"Our goal with Motion Gaming 101 is to eliminate some of the guesswork when it comes to choosing a console for motion gaming, and if you already own a console, to choose the right accessories and games available for your system."

Even in a Kindle world, Twitter looms
For those who haven't heard, Twitter is coming out with a brand new interface that will have a lot of features.  Here's an excellent preview of what it'll be like from TechCrunch writer MG Siegler, who is in the first group to work with "the new Twitter" (it's being phased in and you'll suddenly see it), "The Best Subtle Things About New Twitter."  If you do use Twitter, this is an extremely helpful, thorough preview.

Kindle 3's   (UK: Kindle 3's),   DX Graphite

Check often: Temporarily-free late-listed non-classics or recently published ones
  Guide to finding Free Kindle books and Sources.  Top 100 free bestsellers.
    Also, UK customers should see the UK store's Top 100 free bestsellers. Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
-- The Send to Kindle button works well only on Firefox currently.

Send to Kindle

(Older posts have older Kindle model info. For latest models, see CURRENT KINDLES page. )
If interested, you can also follow my add'l blog-related news at Facebook and Twitter
Questions & feedback are welcome in the Comment areas (tho' spam is deleted). Thanks!


  1. "The district, working with Amazon, can track each Kindle and shut it down if it's stolen or shows up at a pawn shop, or appears on e-Bay..."

    Hmm. So we are to believe that Amazon has built in a "kill switch" that can be remotely "detonated"? I'm not sure that I completely buy this. However, by *saying* that it is true, whether it actually is or not (or to the degree that is indicated), Amazon and the school district certainly will dissuade some students from trying to sell their Kindle.

    Another element in this story that I don't recall seeing discussed is that fact that Amazon must have in place some "corporate-level" account management to group and manage multiple (thousands in this case!) Kindles in a convenient manner. Are details of this known, or is this something that is still hush-hush?

    As a final comment, if Amazon decides to upgrade the already-decent PDF viewer on the Kindle to support DRM'd PDFs, this could open the door to selling more graphically-oriented and/or complexly-formated eBooks for the Kindle in PDF format. (If they can send an .AZW file over WhisperNet, why not a PDF?) Moving forward, I can't imagine something like this *not* happening, as the details I've seen about the AZW format (through Amazon's DTP self-publishing service) indicate that it only supports the most basic of HTML/text formatting.

    Can you imagine how many more school districts would be interested in the Kindle if they could access PDF versions of existing textbooks that have exactly the same page layout/structure?

  2. Jason,
    If a Kindle is stolen or even lost, the user can request that Amazon deregister the Kindle to prevent purchases on the owner's account.

    Corporate management? It's a global-level management that they do and this involves millions of Kindles now, with Checking and Syncing of last page read, obeying requests to download a book, or even to delete one, keeping sometimes hourly subscriptions up to date, backing up the annotations and collections (which books are in which collections) -- the list is long. It includes having to check if a book isn't allowed by the publisher to be sold in the user's country too.

    I've never heard of a very large company that did not have corporate accounts, so I don't even see why that would be hush hush. Amazon's control over any Kindle is the same.

    You ask, Why not a PDF... Because the size can't be determined in advance and many if not most are humongous.

    If you were paying for the 3G in advance, would you wnat your users to willy nilly download PDFs?

    They're many times the size of AZW files, which average about 800K, under 1 meg. Most AZW are mainly text files with a stray photo here and there.

    PDF files are really awful for reading on a 6" device. Barely ok if using it rotated. They're formatted for larger pages.

    Someday schools will be ordering something along the size of the DX but with more academic tools, and better PDF annotation support and even intelligent reflow. I agree with you that the PDF feature now is "already decent" in its Kindle 3 incarnation!

  3. I wonder, though, what the district is doing for their students with visual impairments. While the Kindle has made some advances for blind and visually impaired users, it's still not quite where it needs to be for independent access.

  4. Shawn,
    If they were where they needed to be, it would cost as much as the devices that do all that.

    And, at the school, there are teachers and guides to help orient them to the Home screen before they start the Menu voice guide.

    The National Federation of the Blind had sued Arizona State et al on this and they've now commended Amazon for what they did with the new Kindle.

    See the NFB press release at

  5. re. 'kill switch': hasn't it been reported that, in addition to the owner de-registering a stolen kindle, if a kindle is reported stolen, its serial no. can be blocked from being registered to a different account? nothing special -- and not even a 'switch', really.

    I'm psyched about the Kindle ed's of Morrell's suspense titles. Reading 'Brotherhood of the Rose' at present. It is a fun read if you like espionage, intrigue and sneaky hit-people.

  6. I'm really interested in this kindle textbook experiment and would love to see the follow up in a year or two to see how it goes.
    My husband is a teacher and we discussed this as the where things will mostly likely go in the future.
    I do wonder however, how the textbook publishers are going to react to this? This is a billion dollar industry with huge contracts with schools. Is that school paying as much per textbook on the Kindle as they do for the printed book or do they somehow get a multi-use license and are they saving money?

  7. Kristina
    They're payiing almost as much for the textbooks, according to at least one of the stories.

    Also, the textbook publishers were very involved in helping them set this up (which I should have included in the story)... Maybe I'll update it later... but check the first two stories linked, as there are answers there, from what I remember.

  8. Anonymous,
    re the 'kill switch' again,
    Yes, I"d hope they'd block registration of a device reported to the police as stolen. Amazon requires a police report for that, I've read.

    I agree, it's not like Apple's kill-switch capability that some worry about -- that's to kill apps they decide they don't want active, after they've been bought and are being used.

    I've never read Morrell's books, but people are very high about his books being available on the Kindle now.

    Thanks for the tip on 'Brotherhood of the Rose' and its sneaky hit people :-)


NOTE: TO AVOID SPAM being posted instantly, this blog uses the "DELAY" feature.

Am often away much of the day, and postings won't show up right away. Posts done to use referrer-links may never show up.

Usually, am online enough to release comments within a day though, so the hard-to-read match-text tests for commenting won't be needed this way.

Feedback and questions are welcome. Thanks for participating.

Technical Problems?
If you're having problems leaving a Comment, Google's blogger-help asks that you clear the '' cookies on your browser's Tools or Options menu bar and that will fix the Comment-box problems (until they have a permanent fix).

IF that doesn't work either, then UNcheck the "keep me signed in" box -- Google-help says that should allow your comment to post (it's a workaround to a current bug).
Apologies for the problems.

TIP: There's a size limit. If longer than 3500 characters or so, in a text editor, make two posts out of it.

[Valid RSS]