Center for Digital Education & Converge: research in education technology for K-12 and higher education

Pros and Cons: Kindle 2 vs. Traditional Books

on July 28, 2009

All my life, I’ve been a voracious reader, often with two or three books going at one time. I had my eye on the Amazon Kindle, but didn’t buy one until version No. 2 was released. For those of you out there who are also readers, I thought it might be interesting for you to hear my pros and cons of Kindle vs. the real thing. I'll end with a few observations in relation to education applications.

With my Kindle, I will eventually save money on books. The cost of the Kindle is about $300. I figure at the rate I was buying hardbacks, I will break even in a year with the cost of any hardback downloaded to the Kindle at $9.99. A big plus is the portability factor. I travel a lot and would often leave a fabulous book at home halfway read because it was too heavy! I like the way I can change the size of the font or turn on “text to speech” according to my reading circumstances. Don’t have your reading glasses at hand? No problem, raise the font size!

Finally, another feature of the Kindle 2 that I really like is that I can send myself Word documents and PDFs via my Kindle e-mail account. This is great for those large documents that you have to read and hate to print out.

On the down side, I am pretty sure that I am reading less than I used to. In the past, no matter how bad a book was, if I spent big bucks for it, or it was on loan from a friend, I would plow through to the bitter end. Now, with a cost under $10 per book, I have actually abandoned literary disasters. While the Kindle allows you to bookmark, highlight and notate, there’s just something clunky about it; like the feel of a book in your hand, there’s just something studious about a highlighter in your hand when you are reading something serious! Another real negative is that when you read a great book, you can’t just loan it to a friend. But now, what are you going to do? Hand over the Kindle? And what about power?  If I get stranded on a desert island I am out of luck when my Kindle dies!

Overall, I love my Kindle, and as a former teacher, I can see great possibilities for electronic books in education. I think of the textbook adoption committees I used to sit on in which we spent huge piles of money on books that were out of date long before we received them. I never could understand why we couldn’t buy less science books and use some of that money for hands-on lab materials! I believe the state of California is now leading the way in approving electronic versions of textbooks for their students. Now that I am familiar with e-books, I think this is a cost-effective and environmentally correct solution for schools, especially if the textbook companies can manage to keep the text up to date. Wouldn’t it be nice if a high school student could carry one book reader instead of tons of textbooks in their backpack every day? 

Now that I have had a personal relationship with an electronic book reader, I don’t have a problem with their adoption into a school environment — it just makes too much sense. It may not be the best solution for every subject; I can picture a literature text on Kindle more than a math book. But speaking of literature, what might a school library look like 20 years from now? Wait a minute, will we even need a library?!?


—Jan Zanetis is a career educator with 20+ years in the K-20 environment. She is the market manager for Education at TANDBERG, the global leader in videoconferencing solutions. Jan has co-written two ISTE books and has contributed several articles in various education journals. She serves on the Board of Directors of the U.S. Distance Learning Association and is the president emeritus of the Special Interest group within ISTE, SIG-IVC. She lives in Nashville, Tenn., with her husband Alex and is the proud mom of three sons.

 


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