The Argument for Kindles in Schools

Yesterday I wrote about the Kindle's tepid reception on the Princeton campus, and suggested that the device might not be ready for educational use. But pilot programs at other schools, involving both Kindles and iPhones, have approached the devices from another angle: cost.

According to MacWorld, school administrators in Oklahoma are excited about saving "up to 50 percent on the cost of textbooks" by using electronic copies—a savings that almost directly benefits students, whether in secondary school or college. MacWorld explains:

"...a complete set of textbooks for several courses in a single curriculum and a Kindle device, sold at perhaps half its retail price, might cost $1,600. That’s compared to $2,000 for the traditional textbooks alone."

Issues abound: The Kindle's proprietary document format means textbooks can't be ported easily, and its browser is inadequate for anything but cursory use. And, as the Daily Princetonian reported yesterday, its note-taking tools aren't exactly stellar. Another stumbling block: Colleges and universities make a decent profit from textbook sales, and might be loath to give up a cash cow for an e-book device that will likely yield a slimmer margin.

So how does the iPhone factor in? Amazon's Kindle for iPhone application means that students who already own iPhones or iPod touches can read their materials without purchasing a Kindle—why they would want to read a semester's coursework on a 3.5-inch screen is another question. The textbook market in the U.S. tops $5.5 billion annually, but some forward-thinking big players are already going e-book. McGraw-Hill, for example, offers 95% of their titles electronically.

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11 Comments

  • Charlie Weiss

    Is it a good idea to be device-specific in providing textbooks-as-content? Don't THINK so. My 92-lb. 7th-grader carries 27 lbs of books to and from every day. Could something like the "One Laptop per Child" reduce that load? Could she haul my old laptop to school and carry all her homework and textbooks and handout inside that 5-lb. slab? Seems obvious to me. Hurry up -- I don't want her chiropractor bills to eat her college savings!

  • Charlie Weiss

    Is it a good idea to be device-specific in providing textbooks-as-content? Don't THINK so. My 92-lb. 7th-grader carries 27 lbs of books to and from every day. Could something like the "One Laptop per Child" reduce that load? Could she haul my old laptop to school and carry all her homework and textbooks and handout inside that 5-lb. slab? Seems obvious to me. Hurry up -- I don't want her chiropractor bills to eat her college savings!

  • Analyst Mike

    The Kindle is definitely not the most appropriate technology platform for this endeavor, it’s far too proprietary. There are similar devices that read open document formats and have much better note taking abilities.

    In site of the lost book sales that was mentioned, the gains could be enormous in terms of better use of everyone’s time. I’m imaging a classroom where the teachers can ‘collect’ yesterday’s completed assignments and ‘push’ the required learning materials to the students’ devices. Grading of the completed assignments might even be automated to some degree. Within the first few minutes of a class, the teacher could know which students need help in which areas. An since s/he won’t be spending as much time on clerical tasks, there’s more time to devote to the students as well as their own lives; win – win.

    Lets’ just hope that good sense leads the way rather than the need for lots of cents.

  • Joe Harder

    Agree wholeheartedly on the lightening the backpacks thing! My ten year old's is heavy even for me.

  • Margaret M. Cekis

    Maybe the Kindle device isn't the best solution, but incrementally putting children's course work for all their classes (as they cover it in their classes) on a single portable reading (and perhaps writng & drawing) tablet device would go a long way toward freeing them from the hunchback-causing loads even elementary students haul to and from school in their backpacks these days.

    When we baby-boomers were in school, we had smaller books, about 6x9 inches,(probably containing more actual information) than today's typical 8x10-inch double-thick textbooks. They had fewer pictures and less white space, and most problems and questions were packaged in disposable paper-bound workbooks that we did our homework in, or took home, filled ouy, and handed in only the assigned pages. Even my high school textbooks fit side-by-side on top of a 3-ring notebook.

    Most of what has been added to texbooks in the last 50 years has been weight and higher costs. How has carrying all that empty weight helped our kids? Maybe it's time to look at different solutions, and having them haul only their reading devices home to do homework might be a start. Could a dog eat their homework on their Kindles?

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    MargEdit

  • Margaret M. Cekis

    Maybe the Kindle device isn't the best solution, but incrementally putting children's course work for all their classes (as they cover it in their classes) on a single portable reading (and perhaps writng & drawing) tablet device would go a long way toward freeing them from the hunchback-causing loads even elementary students haul to and from school in their backpacks these days.

    When we baby-boomers were in school, we had smaller books, about 6x9 inches,(probably containing more actual information) than today's typical 8x10-inch double-thick textbooks. They had fewer pictures and less white space, and most problems and questions were packaged in disposable paper-bound workbooks that we did our homework in, or took home, filled ouy, and handed in only the assigned pages. Even my high school textbooks fit side-by-side on top of a 3-ring notebook.

    Most of what has been added to texbooks in the last 50 years has been weight and higher costs. How has carrying all that empty weight helped our kids? Maybe it's time to look at different solutions, and having them haul only their reading devices home to do homework might be a start. Could a dog eat their homework on their Kindles?

    --
    MargEdit

  • Joe Harder

    The business school where I work, Darden at UVa, has a pilot program with some students getting their cases and readings on a Kindle (and then being able to sell it back if they want after their first year). From reports I've heard, it seems to be well-received.

  • Richard Sullivan

    In today's economy cost is definitely a big issue. This can really help in all school districts after the initial cost of the kindles are absorbed. This can really help a school district's budget. Online Casino

  • Charlie Weiss

    Is it a good idea to be device-specific in providing textbooks-as-content? Don't THINK so. My 92-lb. 7th-grader carries 27 lbs of books to and from every day. Could something like the "One Laptop per Child" reduce that load? Could she haul my old laptop to school and carry all her homework and textbooks and handout inside that 5-lb. slab? Seems obvious to me. Hurry up -- I don't want her chiropractor bills to eat her college savings!

  • Margaret M. Cekis

    Maybe the Kindle device isn't the best solution, but incrementally putting children's course work for all their classes (as they cover it in their classes) on a single portable reading (and perhaps writng & drawing) tablet device would go a long way toward freeing them from the hunchback-causing loads even elementary students haul to and from school in their backpacks these days.

    When we baby-boomers were in school, we had smaller books, about 6x9 inches,(probably containing more actual information) than today's typical 8x10-inch double-thick textbooks. They had fewer pictures and less white space, and most problems and questions were packaged in disposable paper-bound workbooks that we did our homework in, or took home, filled ouy, and handed in only the assigned pages. Even my high school textbooks fit side-by-side on top of a 3-ring notebook.

    Most of what has been added to texbooks in the last 50 years has been weight and higher costs. How has carrying all that empty weight helped our kids? Maybe it's time to look at different solutions, and having them haul only their reading devices home to do homework might be a start. Could a dog eat their homework on their Kindles?

    --
    MargEdit

  • Gregory Ferenstein

    Does the price figure in how much students make selling the book after the course, or how much they save buying from amazon.com? And, will students who don't want the e-reader be disadvantaged? Nice post, BTW

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