Kindle Flunking Out Of Princeton?

from the bad-grades dept

theodp writes "At Jeff Bezos’ alma mater, The Daily Princetonian reports that less than two weeks after 50 students received free Kindle DX’s as part of the University’s e-reader pilot program, many of them said they were dissatisfied and uncomfortable with the devices. ‘I hate to sound like a Luddite, but this technology is a poor excuse of an academic tool,’ said Aaron Horvath ’10, a student in Civil Society and Public Policy. ‘It’s clunky, slow and a real pain to operate.’ How about a second opinion? The device is ‘hard to use,’ added Horvath’s professor, Stan Katz."

I have to admit that I don’t quite understand the value of the Kindle DX as a reading device for schools or… anything, really. In the meantime, why are schools using closed off DRM-encrusted devices for training students anyway?

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Comments on “Kindle Flunking Out Of Princeton?”

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Robert Ring (profile) says:

Honestly, I don’t see the appeal, either. Pretty cool concept that you can store lots of books on it, but that’s it. Far too expensive, and much less versatile than a real book (would you ever take one of these near a beach?).

I downloaded the Kindle app on my iPhone, though (in order to get Chris Anderson’s book for free), and I will say that it’s nice to not need a stupid book light to read at night. That’s pretty much it.

william (profile) says:

Personally, I think eBooks can have a place in school. When I remember all those thick textbooks I bought and used only for 3 months and all the weight I have to lug around all day long…

I read the story a few days ago and some students do like some parts of using Kindle. When we are discussing a story/news, I think it’s only fair to point them out too, instead of just pointing out the part to be criticized.

However, I personally don’t think the story is about Kindle’s DRM but about how Kindle in its current form is not a good educational tool to use. What Mike wrote is off topic, really.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Totally agree. Although not in school, I’ve got myself an EZReader, which puts Kindle (and Sony to some extent) to shame both in terms of the format support, price and ease of use (no connectivity, but I don’t care – 16 Gb of storage does the trick). Now I am very happy to have 40+ reference books (each the average college textbook in size) at my fingertips. With all the illustrations and stuff.
Really, you have to know what you need the e-book for. Current generation has it’s own limitations, but things will improve in the nex year or two.
Meanwhile, as an early adapter, I can live with what we have today. And no, getting Kindle with all the DRM stupidity, was never an option for me; I always needed straight and honest PDF support, not some transcoded BS.

william (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Kindle is certainly easy to use. There is no denying that.

However, the Princeton story focused on the “educational” use of the Kindle, which is very different from casual reading of a book.

The main complain, if you didn’t have a chance to read the actualy Princeton article is as follows.

#1 – very very VERY hard to take note of. This is the common problem for all ebooks. Unlike your mother who just enjoys a good fiction/non-fiction, students NEEDS to take notes, do dog-ears, write in margines, highlights, etc.
#2 – no page number, make it incredibly hard to a) reference to it in the term paper your are writing, b) talk to your classmate, who couldn’t afford a kindle and has a regular book, about certain passage in the book
#3 – some people find it hard on the eye (and some people actually find it EASY on the eye)

another point not raised by the student now, but could be a problem in the future, and what Mike’s main concern it, that you don’t own the book. What if Amazon/Publisher decided not to “license” the book anymore. They delete your copy. What if you happen to like all your work and notes and bookmarks and want to keep it? You can’t.

eBook would have a place in eduction if they can over come some major hurdles, but right now, it’s, and I quote, “A poor excuse of an academic tool.”

John Duncan Yoyo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I think the real use of a kindle is to lessen the big honking pile of books that one would need to cart around. My college backpack topped out at 50# when I was taking the Freshmen courses in Physics, Chemistry, Calculus and a literature course.

I don’t think Amazon would ever take away anything that was paid for again after the 1984 fiasco. The bigger danger there are the books that people would take on as a rental for the term. Pay less and lose access after a set period.

fogbugzd (profile) says:

ebooks have a place

Ebooks definitely have a place in higher ed. The current crop of college students have grown up reading screens rather than books, and a lot of them actually prefer to read on a screen rather than on paper. I have even had students who scan handouts to pdf files so they can read them on the computer.

Our campus has been looking at ebooks, but I doubt that we adopt anything until there is an open platform. Personally, I think the Kindle is a fantastic piece of hardware. However, the DRM-lockdown and the account cancellation shenanigans Amazon has pulled is more than enough to keep it out of our classrooms. One of the big appeals of ebooks is the ability to let students with vision impairments listen to their books. Unfortunately, that ability is sometimes taken away with Kindles, so that is one more strike against them.

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: ebooks have a place

dunno… i mean, I’m 22 and i grew up with books.

i don’t know a single person in real life who actually prefers screens for Reading. more than a few wish they didn’t have to deal with them as much as they do. i do know several people who, if sent an e-mail, news letter, or other such document electronically, will promptly print it and never look at the digital copy again, though.

then again, a lot of the people i know have interesting sensory issues, so i suppose that skews things a bit.

meh *shrugs* people, world, blah blah blah blah.
i really don’t see the one replacing the other by any natural process, at any rate.

rccypher says:


As a student I would like to say that frankly I would LOVE to have the ability to carry all my books around in one convenient device. Part of the reasons I love the PDF format (granted that at times it drives me nuts) is because I can do keyword searches, leave bookmarks that are instantly available and effectively never close my book. When I think of how much my back would thank me for the lack of weight carrying around a single device vs 5 text books I can only conclude that this is defiantly the right direction for us to be headed. HOWEVER, the DRM and amazon issues that were mentioned above are HUGE problems. I understand the marketing necessities behind them, I even agree with the thinking behind SOME of it. Frankly though, I think we can all agree that text books are on average HUGELY over priced. $300 for a physics text is totally out of line. I regularly spend more money on texts at the beginning of a given school term than I do for my first month of rent and utilities. This is most certainly a problem which needs to be addressed.
ALSO, as a further note on this, having used a kindle, its garbage. As a device it is slow, sub standard, proprietary junk. Sure my mom loves it, but she doesn’t do key word searches on PDF’s or spend time trying to read mathematical formulas off of an ebook reader that is simply not up the the challenge of rendering it properly.
Finally, do I think ebooks are the next step, indeed the correct next step in educational materials, for the benefits of both students and teachers? Absolutely. Is the kindle or ANY ebook reader on the market a proper choice for use currently? Certainly not, none of them have gotten the hardware right, let alone the software or marketing strategy to make it worthwhile or workable.

Anonymous Coward says:

“In the meantime, why are schools using closed off DRM-encrusted devices for training students anyway?”

Because it’s the only way these devices will sell. Think graphing calculators. Prehistoric, SLOW, you can’t modify the firmware without TI threatening to sue, VERY LITTLE memory, really overpriced, haven’t advanced much at all. Why do they sell? Monopoly, schools require them, TI makes a fortune and pretends it doesn’t.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It’s the newest business model. If you can’t get people to buy your stuff voluntarily, leverage the government to force people to.

These business models are advancing.

If you can’t compete in a free market then lobby the government and sue people.

This is an extension of that business model, if people won’t buy your product then lobby the government to force them to.

Anonymous Coward says:

TX2500 is my friend...

A Tx2500 or TX2 with OneNote and PDF Annotator is much more useful for students then the kindle will ever be. I can highlight, draw, take notes, flag key words and sentences, and do so much more then I ever could with just a traditional paper notebook. That’s the problem with the kindle, you can do LESS then you would with a standard text book! With a convertible notebook, you gain all of the benefits of both mediums, especially not having to carry a multitude of heavy text books and folders.

I went from carrying a laptop, notebook, 6 text books, at last, and other stuff to just 1 tx2500 and 1 small notebook for storing handouts.

Griff (profile) says:

eBook readers - why buy a Kindle ?

I read eBooks a lot, on a circa 1999 Handspring Visor Platinum with 128MB Flash expansion . (about $20 on eBay + the expansion pack).
I always have a book to read if I have my PDA with me. It remembers where I am up to with several books at a time. I can search, bookmark. I can read plain old PDF’s or DRM eBooks that I bought from the site.
I can even autoscroll so I don’t need to keep moving my hand to press an end of page button.

And I would definitely take it to a beach because I can pick up a replacement so cheap. (I have a few on the shelf in case)

I read at night by backlight without keeping my partner awake with a bedside lamp.
I get access to a huge no of Gutenberg books (for some I pay a couple of bucks but I am happy to pay that as someone has added value by getting them into Palm eBook format and delivered them to my device).

Ebooks are not new. The Kindle is an integrated ecosystem like the iPod/iTunes.
If someone decided to make a device that was aimed at schools it could be better / cheaper for that application (wifi but no mobile, autolockout if not periodically authorised by school so not worth nicking, non volatile storage, rugged, able to use conventional batteries so if student turns up with it flat they don’t lose ages)

Problem here is one idea (eBooks) being denigrated because of problems with a specific (non matched) device.

The eBook ecosystem as it applies to a school is what is important. The device (be it a tablet, netwbook or dedicated reader) is probably not where most work is required.

PRenault says:

Re.: ebooks have a place

Chargone @ 10: “i don’t know a single person in real life who actually prefers screens for Reading”

Ahem: Me! But then, you have no idea who I am, so…

And my e-reader isn’t a Kindle. It’s an iRex iLiad. I got this one because it was much much more open sourced and because I could write notes on/near the text (if the doc’s a PDF) using a stylus. Yeah, handwritten notes!

But it’s also substantially more expensive than the Kindle.

/Would NEVER print out an email message to read it… Gah!

Avid E-book user says:

Sony E-reader

They just chose the wrond E-Reader. I’ve been using the Sony E-reader for school and leisure for a couple years, and it’s wonderful. I had a problem with not being able to take notes, but that’s solved in the new touch edition. I tried the kindle, and I think Amazon missed the mark completely. Clunky, difficult to use, over-priced and DRMed. Why would I want that?

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