Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Please Welcome ASU's Newest Freshman to Campus: the Kindle

kindle.jpgFor most college students, it's almost a rite-of-passage to spend big bucks at the bookstore. But with advancements in online publishing, digital textbooks are no longer out of the question. Not only are they cost effective, they're convenient, searchable, environmentally friendly, and may even incorporate rich media, giving students the ability to both read about a subject and maybe watch a video about it too.

And yet, even with all their advantages, traditional paper-based books still rule at universities around the country. What gives? Well, in my view, it's a complicated interaction between publishers, faculty, and students all caught in a 20th century business model that's yet to give way.

But all that may be changing, and soon.

Beginning in Fall 2009, ASU is partnering with Amazon to try out the Kindle DX, Amazon's latest digital reading device, to replace traditional textbooks in the classroom. Selected classes  of students will begin using the Kindle instead of paper books, and we'll be comparing how they fare relative to their paper book wielding counterparts.

For example, thanks to a proposal from Dr. Ted Humphrey, President’s Professor in ASU's Barrett Honors College, a group of students enrolled in this fall's Human Event course will receive their textbooks not as bound books but on a brand new Kindle DX instead. The Human Event is a two-semester course required of all Barrett students that covers a wide range of material from about 50 different sources.

ASU is actively working with Amazon to find those courses of study for which the Kindle is a good alternative to traditional texts. In those areas, Kindle delivered e-books would provide students with a significant cost savings and provide them with an additional flexible learning tool. In addition to cutting textbook costs and reducing the weight in students' backpacks, digital textbooks are available for download wirelessly and reduce the amount of paper used to print and distribute textbooks.

Electronic texts provide the capabilities that today's students have come to expect--they're searchable, flexible, easy to annotate, and less expensive than traditional texts. I'm pumped to work with Amazon and to see how the Kindle can help the University accelerate the adoption of electronic textbooks into a variety of courses.

ASU is one of five universities participating with Amazon in the Kindle pilot. The others are Princeton University, Case Western Reserve University, Reed College, and Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia.

As always, your thoughts, notions, questions and comments are welcome.


JSA Lowe,  May 6, 2009 at 3:01 AM  

Yes, yes, YES! This is wonderful news, and I'm excited to see the tired old "20th-century business model" (or, really, 19th-century) give way to something practical, useful, and efficient—and above all *searchable*. Bravo to UTO for making this happen!

Adrian Sannier May 6, 2009 at 3:36 AM  

We're really excited about this and are hoping this grows into something great!

J Jensen,  May 6, 2009 at 4:00 AM  

Given that the Kindle DX retails for $489.00 without any books loaded, how much will students need to pay to receive their books in the future? Is this trial run going to be subsidized in some form? Will these Kindle DXs remain the property of ASU?

Another question, assuming adoption by the University, would be how will this compare to the current market for paper books? I am a unique case in that I still have all my textbooks from my undergrad (Computer Systems Engineering) but most of my fellow students routinely sold their books back at the end of the semester making their cost of ownership much lower than it might be with an eReader like the Kindle. Paying "NEW" prices for all my books when they can't be sold back at the end of the semester would be rather discouraging to many students.

Alice Robison May 6, 2009 at 4:03 AM  

I'll be interested to try this out. While my area of research is new media, I'm never in favor of claiming that digital technologies should necessarily replace analog ones. But if the Kindle DX will allow us to use .pdf files in our teaching, that will be a nice supplement to other materials we use with students.

Sharon Morley,  May 6, 2009 at 8:34 AM  

What an excellent idea. It's innovative and cost effective. I truly hope this becomes the norm!

JoshCork May 6, 2009 at 9:02 AM  

This is fantastic. I hope this takes off, I think this could help transform education!

John Carter McKnight,  May 7, 2009 at 4:40 AM  

This has enormous potential for law students in particular, as a cost- and weight-alternative to a stack of casebooks. It will also be nice to have a well-formatted display for online journal articles, rapidly becoming the staple of graduate education.

Adrian Sannier May 8, 2009 at 4:06 AM  

Good questions. Not sure of the business model answers yet. If Amazon's trade book model is any guide, 50% reductions in book prices could be expected. Maybe a rental model too? All of this we'll have to see as we go forward.

Tony,  May 11, 2009 at 8:25 AM  

It's a wonderful idea, but I think Amazon needs to lower the price of the Kindle - at $489.00 it's a bit steep for students. Hopefully, ASU will offer some kind of discount. Even a price like $299.00 would be more palatable.

Pamela G,  May 15, 2009 at 2:25 AM  

Is ASU negotiating an "educational use" price on the Kindle? If so, I would be VERY interested in trying it out!

Adrian Sannier May 15, 2009 at 6:58 AM  

At this time we don't have any information on price other than the list price that Amazon has put forward already.

Karen Kramer May 18, 2009 at 7:26 AM  

The Kindle is second on my must have list... right after the new MacBook Pro and before the IPhone.

Tim Reasoner,  May 23, 2009 at 5:42 AM  

The Kindle does not seem like a good deal for a student like me. I like to add elaborate highlighting and notes to all of my textbooks.

It appears to me that this will not be readily possible with the Kindle.

I once heard a Noble prize winner (do not remember who) on PBS say, 'if a textbook is not heavily marked up, you haven't learned anything from it'.

If I got stuck with one of these 'Kindle classes', I would immediately go out and buy the real book instead.

I suspect that the Kindle is good for fluff reading (murder mysteries, etc.), but not for optimal learning.

Adrian Sannier May 26, 2009 at 4:42 AM  

That's part of what we hope to learn, Tim. Markup is possible on the Kindle, and it can be digital and searchable, which standard markup isn't. There's an old British saying that what you lose on the swings, you gain on the roundabouts...We'll learn a lot about this I think, and we also might find out that one size definitely doesn't fit all.

Sher,  May 31, 2009 at 7:14 AM  

That last comments about one size not fitting all might be right, but I think there are other outlets for this sort of technology rather than just the Kindle DX. As Apple promotions for the ipod touch and iphone for students keep popping up at back to school time each year, and the new kindle reader app for iphone/itouch seems to have pretty robust development, are there any plans for ASU to track or survey kindle textbook downloads by students on these devices?

I agree that the Kindle DX current price point is a little steep. It seems many more students/faculty are willing to pay for an ipod touch/iphone device or similar convergence device. I know it doesn't have the fancy e-ink display (although a device in black and white, no color, with slow-ish refresh rates, doesn't seem like a step forward to me, but that's just my own opinion) and the ipod screen is pretty small, something maybe not so great for long books or articles. However, even with these limitations, students might be willing to read on a smaller, color touch screen device rather than having to pick up a $489 device just for textbooks.

Darrell Shandrow June 8, 2009 at 5:19 AM  

The Kindle is inaccessible to the blind, visually impaired and some other users with print reading disabilities. I am a blind ASU student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. I strenuously object to the university's use of our tuition and/or taxpayer dollars to negotiate with or purchase anything from vendors, including Amazon, that fail to deliver products and services which are fully accessible to everyone. Since the Kindle remains inaccessible, I strongly feel that, at this time, ASU should stop this project and cease all dealings with Amazon with respect to use of the Kindle books until accessibility of the books and the devices can be assured.

Graciela Gonzalez,  June 11, 2009 at 5:37 AM  

How do we get textbooks lined up as a request for Kindle version? I am interested in getting the BMI students use the technology... and then explore application development on it, if that is at all an option.

Melissa Ward,  June 12, 2009 at 11:45 AM  

Right now we have the diversity of buying textbooks online at a cheaper price. I like the idea of having the Kindle versus the countless textbooks. The only thing I don't want to see happen is the price of the downloaded textbooks hiked, even though they cost much less to the university.

How long will a Kindle last a student, how durable are they, can books be transferred from the Kindle to a computer, what is the warranty on the Kindle, as textbooks update with various editions will this be the case with Kindle, what happens if a student accidently downloads the wrong book, and with the heat in AZ there are going to be bookbags left in cars accidently will there be insurances for the Kindle?

Todd,  June 15, 2009 at 7:04 AM  

I believe the 2nd Generation and newer Kindles can in fact read the text aloud, which would be accessible to visually impaired would it not?

Michael,  July 1, 2009 at 8:44 AM  

So I'm an incoming Barrett freshman. How do I get one?

Pat,  July 8, 2009 at 1:55 PM  

Having used my Kindle 2 last semester for courses and had all my textbooks readily available on it, I highly support this initiative! As far as a concern about highlighting and note taking in books, I am constantly doing this! With the Kindle, not only can you highlight and make notes just as easy as you can with a paper book. What's nice is that the Kindle automatically stores your notes and highlights in a summary page which you can refer to and search. When you find the notation you're looking for, you simply click on it and it will take you to the place in the book where you made the note/highlight! A lot better than putting sticky notes on pages to indicate sections of importance and then having to go back and search through the book for those important passages! It's a great time saver when studying for tests or writing papers where you need these as a reference point.

Kristy K,  July 10, 2009 at 11:15 AM  

Will the kindle be available in the bookstore for all students to purchase? (Hopefully at a cheaper price than $489.00) Or do you have to be one of the lucky ones in a progressive class?

Jenny,  July 12, 2009 at 2:48 PM  

I agree that they shouldn't be the only option for blind students, and those with visual problems that cause Kindle to be unusable. You should absolutely have equal access.

But, as a student with low vision (visual impairment, but less severe) and issues with color contrast, it would personally help me. I currently receive text and testing accommodations through the disability center. Carrying a laptop is not always practical, and I can rarely read out of the textbooks. I carry magnifiers, but those only help when size--not-contrast--is the issue, and they impede my normal speed of reading.

A Kindle would help me by having high contrast monochrome text that I can easily re-size. The portability and battery life are appealing, plus it'd be nice to study texts while on the lightrail.

I solidly agree that it shouldn't be mandatory, but consider that some visually impaired students, like me, would be helped by this new technology.

Johnny K. Young,  July 29, 2009 at 2:53 PM  

How much will it cost and will payment plans be available for those who don't "qualify" for financial aid? Also, what is the cutoff date for the class. I have 99 hours attempted from an out of styate school but would like to start completely afresh.

Johnny K. Young,  July 29, 2009 at 3:02 PM  

In response to the "Text-to-speech option, this is an "experimental program" that Amazon/Kindle is looking into but it may be a year or so before it becomes viable in a classroom setting. You have to make it "pretty" and THEN make it work. The liited number of visually impared students versus the students who can see and benefit from such an advancement renders the liklihood of this "addition" being added to the DX is someonewhere between slim and none at this point, though it MAY be added as a "software upgrade" at a later date. To do it NOW would be akin to putting totally blind people on a collegate dodgeball team...a no-win situtation if there ever was one.

John Cannistraro,  July 31, 2009 at 11:16 AM  

The Kindle should be an option not the only choice a student has. I personally have not enjoyed electronic textbooks I purhased online. The Hardware is another issue. What happens to a lost or stolen device. replacing a few books is a lot less than a $500 aparatus. I really hope the University considers this as an OPTION and not mandatory line item.