The Arizona Desert Lamp

Kindle College?

Posted in Campus by Evan Lisull on 2 September 2008

Via the Chronicle for Higher Education, a hint at the future:

Amazon is considering entering the student textbook market with a new version of its Kindle e-book reader, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Most publishers now offer electronic versions of their textbooks, but so far there’s not an attractive enough e-book reader, and Amazon aims to fill that void. The college-oriented new model might be larger and include student-friendly features, such as allowing making annotations, according to a technology blog.

A Kindle right now is retailing for $359; according to the UA, “Books/Supplies” run at about $1000 for the school year.

This would be a welcome development; however, some of the impacts of a Kindle-based campus environment are worth considering:

1) For one, this raises the risk of potential theft/loss. When you lose a textbook, it’s bad enough, but if you were to lose your Kindle, it would be akin to leaving all of your books behind, plus several hundred dollars.

2) A near-complete conversion to electronic books might help to streamline the trading-in of books. It would seem that one might be able to upload their entire book collection from last semester to a database, which would then be able to facilitate the trading of books between students, instant sales, with none of the “we’re not purchasing that book back” B.S. that happens with the present book trade-in set-up.

3) This could also encourage a shift over to Gen Eds that have a broader focus on primary texts and classic literature, since all of these works can be obtained for free from a site such as Gutenberg.

4) Finally, we might see, for the first time, the impact of file sharing on the classroom. Music has had relatively no impact on the classroom set-up, but a widespread proliferation of a hacked e-book would lead to some interesting dynamics. I would suspect that professors would be inclined to look the other way, and perhaps even support the students in their sharing endeavors. Ultimately, there might be a conflict between the RIAA-equivalent body for electronic books (if, indeed, there is such a thing; if not, there will be) and the University.

Ultimately, regardless of how this battle ends up, I think that prices would go down, just as the price of music has gone down with the advent of iTunes (in response to Napster v. Metallica, RIAA, et al).

Image courtesy of Flickr user jaydenlove

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