We speculated about this yesterday, and by now, it looks like a given that Amazon will release a larger version of its Kindle eBook reader tomorrow that will focus on the college textbook market. While the exact hardware specs are not quite clear yet, it does seem logical that Amazon would like to push its eBook reader into this market segment. After all, according to some estimates, the textbook market is worth almost $9 billion dollars in the U.S. alone. We do wonder, however, if students will really like this idea. After all, virtually every student already owns a portable device with a nice screen for reading eTextbooks: their laptops.
In some ways, wouldn’t it be more advantageous for students if Amazon and its partners released a Kindle for the Desktop similar to the Kindle for an iPhone app? Some of the current eTextbook offerings, like CourseSmart, already give students the option to download eTextbooks for a considerable discount. But at least on CourseSmart, these texts are only available as 180 day subscriptions. For most students, though, that is probably not too much of an issue.
Reading Textbooks is Different from Reading a Novel
Reading textbooks is a very different activity from reading a regular book. Students, hopefully, don’t just read the text, but actively take notes, highlight sections, and annotate their texts. While the Kindle offers some of these functions, the absence of a touchscreen makes for a rather clunky experience.
In addition, students who use notetaking software would probably also want to be able to copy-and-paste text and images from their eBooks to their favorite software (Microsoft has been pushing its OneNote application heavily on college campuses, for example). Kindle eBooks also won’t allow users to print any part of the text.
With a dedicated hardware device like the Kindle, students lose all of these abilities and gain relatively little compared to using the laptops they already own. Of course, the Kindle is a great eBook reader, and its screen makes reading a lot easier. But for the purpose of studying, it will remain to be seen if Amazon can find ways around some of the disadvantages a dedicated eBook reader would have over a good desktop application that students could use on their laptops.
Let Us Know What You Think
Let us know what you think of the Kindle as a dedicated textbook reader in the comments, especially if you are currently a college student or instructor.
CC-licensed image used courtesy of Flickr user Chrysaora.