Monday, August 25, 2008

Kindle to Target Colleges



Well, classes have started and young scholars are scurrying about. Part of their scurrying involves trips to the bookstore to drop cash (or plastic) on textbooks. Like everyone else, I've heard students complaining about the cost and weight of many of their texts; fortunately, they haven't complained outright with regard to my singular required text (all other readings are available free-o-charge digitally).

These laments are part of the reason that I think it's pretty cool that Amazon intends to market a version of its Kindle to colleges and universities. I read about this on TechCrunch...the link is here.

I am sure that opposition to this will take many forms ranging from fear of Amazon's hegemony (because traditional purveyors of textbooks aren't hegemomic in their own right) to "oh my gosh Student Stores has gone/will go out of business!" to complaints that nothing beats the feel and experience of a "real" book. To all of these detractors, I would posit that what matters most is the engagement with the content we call text regardless of its form.

That said, the change in form is pretty impressive and if readers prefer it, good. I'm the last person who'd want bookstores or libraries to disappear, however I don't think they will even if every young scholar has a Kindle in hand. These institutions will endure because, at their heart, they are communities of practice. They'll endure even if the tools that enable that practice change.

What I'd like to focus on with the possible impact of Kindle on college campuses is how user practice and expectation might change. I'm also curious about how access might benefit users of all types and how users might be able to do more with (inter)textuality. In short, I'd like to take the ethics we use to critique Kindle's potential entry and use those ethics to direct Kindle's entry toward the utopias we keep pining for.

12 comments:

jkd said...

Targeting colleges was what they should've done upon initial launch, anyhow, and it would be really useful if they would fully support .pdfs. But it doesn't (though it's possible to workaround with some but not all .pdfs), which positions the Kindle as a device dedicated primarily not towards user functionality but to creating a revenue stream for Amazon. And in doing so, it privileges all those things that are published specifically as books, which is problematic for obvious reasons.

I wish I could be more excited about this than I am, but it's a crippled and problematic product as it now stands - very much what Zittrain would classify as a tethered appliance.

Ashley said...

I agree with the assumption that the Kindle will not shut down student stores or bookstores of any kind. The truth is, students (and people, in general) all learn different and the Kindle may or may not facilitates this learning. For example, I must have the ability to highlight the material I read. This is how I grasp material, especially in upper level college courses I am currently taking. Without the ability to physically highlight what I read, I simply do not remember the material read as well. Also, the act of purchasing a physical text book and reading it and writing in it is indeed a practice. I would never not go to a book store and buy books simply because I own a Kindle. I could see the Kindle as being a great benefit for travelers since there are numerous restrictions on how much you can now carry on planes, but when it comes to school there are simply more options to choose from to be worried about Student Stores closing.

Kristin S. said...

I definatley agree...Student Stores would never close even if Kindle were to emerge in mass quantities all over campus. I mean students would still need to purchase the rights to use the book on the Kindle. Also, I don't think books will ever go out of "style." Some people prefer to read off of paper, like myself. I can't memorize what I've read off of a computer screen. I understand the point of the Kindle, but I don't know if it will become the change that the developers might expect it to be. Besides, too much technology could be a bad thing.

Eric said...

I must agree with the idea that book stores would never close out but with an item like the Kindle sales would definitely diminish. I see the comments people make about preferring to read from books but I don't think this generalization can be made for future populations. For instance think about when the first mp3 players came out I'm sure there were people clutching to their CDs and saying they would never convert. But ultimately people will go for the better, cheaper, and more convenient. It all comes down to a person's willingness to adapt.

wdecos said...

While it might be a long time before before bookstores and libraries (at least the way know them) close, I think it is a fallacy to say that they will never close. I, like many other students, need the physical textbook. Writing in the margins, underlining, and even turning the pages help me retain and understand the information presented in the text. However, why must future students, who will most likely come from a culture vastly different from that of today, rely on these same mechanical methods to learn? I simply cannot speak for future generations and I therefore think that the introduction of the Kindle in college campuses is a great technological leap.

Truman B said...

I believe kindles to be a great advancement in the way college students and anyone in general has access to textbooks and books. I personally would rather have all my books in digital form; however, not everyone would agree. Everyone is different and everyone has their own unique way of digesting information. Some prefer writing in textbooks and highlighting important information. Personally I have never had the opportunity until now to write in my textbooks, I would always have to write separate notes, so there would not be much of a change for me.
Also, the student bookstore will never go out of business and our libraries will not disappear. As I said before different individuals learn in different ways. Some students learn best with a tradition style textbook, while some students can learn with new technology such as the kindle or pdf files on the computer. For me it’s all about convenience and compactness. If I could have all my books on a little kindle I would buy one instantly.

Emily Dew said...

As someone who makes a daily 30 minute walk to classes with a backpack that looks like it weighs more than I do, Kindle sounds pretty awesome. I have full confidence in Student Stores to make the changes to stay afloat in the fact of this new technology, but I wonder about "textbook" costs. Without the option to buy used or sell back the "textbook" how much extra cash (or plastic) would students be dropping? I'm also concerned on potential dependence on Kindle in classrooms and how that might affect people who are, for lack of a better term, technologically cursed. What happens when Kindle is broken and there's a reading due the next day?
While Kindle sounds like a great buy and it's very smart of Amazon to target colleges, I'm not so sure the benefits outweigh the potential problems.

DanA. said...

It certainly would be nice to only have to worry about bringing one object to all of your classes. It could actually further my learning, too. I say this because for many of my classes I leave my textbook at the dorm, not because I don't need it, because I don't feel like lugging it around.

And I don't think the school bookstore has too much to worry about. All they gotta do is become the major supplier of Kindle on campus.

MoniquesS said...

I agree with the statement that Library's will always be here, with us. The Kindle seems like a great tool to have, especially when you are on the go, and need to get some quick studying in here and there, but overall, I really do not think, the Kindle has in chance, what so ever to replace textbooks. The feel and the look of an ordinary text book, just sends out the message for students to study, for them to learn. On the other hand, a Kindle, would probably be thought of more as another small hand held device, only this gizmo gives you the ablility to ready books. The Kindle effect may take off a bit, but I highy doubt that much success will be bestowed up that company any times soon.

trevor g said...

as i read this post about Amazon's new vision regarding marketing Kindle to colleges, I can't help but question the advantage of moving books to a digitalized form. True, it would be more convenient at times and more "hip", but does it necessarily mean that digitalizing textbooks enhances learning (and should that not be the true ambition). As I step back and look at this generation's transition to a more connected, online, participatory culture, I wonder if we are benefitting as much intellectually from these new innovations as we think. It seems as if there is a growing disparity between those who have access to the web and therefore modern education and those who don't. Its not that I don't believe the internet is an amazing tool, I am just concerned that this move to a digital world will leave some of the rustic, intrinsic and intellectually stimulating factors of reading a book and learning through a more hands on way behind. I am truly split on this issue. I like when a company like Amazon announces something so groundbreaking like this, but I am just wary of where we are going as "spoon fed" culture and who we are leaving behind.

Walt Peters said...

I never thought about doing the whole text-book thing on a Kindle. That would be awesome, save money and your back! However, I do think that there is something to be said for reading a book. I know that reading articles online can be tedious. A screen, to me at least, will never come close to the beauty and ease of paper. The ability to creatively notate, underline and high light will never be fully functional with a Kindle. I know some will disagree, but I love my real, live, touchable books.

Jassminn said...

I agree with the the position that libraries and student stores will remain. I belive that with the electronic text would make already expensive college text more afforadable. As time progresses, there is a need for more innovative and modern forms of technology with regards to education. Not to mention just think of all rhe trees we would save!