Monday, August 25, 2008 eBook for Students

 Amazon Kindle eBook readerNews reports suggest are planning a new version of their Kindle eBook reader with a a bigger screen for college and university students. But a subnotebook computer would seem more useful.

The current Kindle has limited functionality as a computer, is US$399, has an electronic-paper display, wireless Internet, a QWERTY keyboard and week long battery life.

There are now several sub-notebook computers for around $US500, which would be about the same size as a larger Kindle. These have a shorter battery life than the Kindle, but have a larger keyboard and more general purpose software. It seems unlikely that a university student would want to purchase and carry around both an eBook and a notebook computer. Given the choice, they are likely to prefer a slightly more expensive but more useful computer (perhaps supplemented with a large screen smartphone).

The Kindle includes a wireless modem for downloading content via a US cellphone network, with are paying the access charge when the US wireless network is used to download a ebook content from Amazon's store. But this is not a great advantage for university students, who are likely to have WiFi access on the campus.

Also while the eBook may be able to display electronic books and play podcasts of lectures, it is less likely to be able to usefully work with other educational content. Students will have to be able to interact with a web based Learning management system (LMS), such as WebCT or Moodle, carry out research using open access electronic libraries (such as the IFIP DL), write and submit their assignments. They are unlikely to want to do that on a tiny monochrome screen and calculator like keyboard. In contrast the sub notebooks have usable keyboards and readable colour screens (and can be plugged into a full size keyboard and screen for desktop use).

The move seems to designed to lock universities and students into purchasing textbooks from large publishers, in much the same way that Apple locked them into buying music for the iPod. Apple have had some success at convincing universities to provide audio lecture podcasts via its store. It will be interesting to see if any universities attempt similar deals for textbooks.
Carrier Sprint
Available November 19, 2007
Screen 600×800 px,
167 ppi resolution, 6" diagonal, 7.5" x 5.3" size, 4-level grayscale
Electronic paper, LCD side scroller.
Operating system Linux (2.6.10 kernel)
Input QWERTY keyboard,
select wheel, next/prev/back buttons.
CPU Intel PXA255.
Memory 64 MB RAM,
256 MB (180 MB available) internal storage, SD expansion slot.
Networks Amazon Whispernet
Connectivity EVDO/CDMA AnyDATA wireless modem, USB 2.0 port (mini-B connector),
3.5 mm stereo headphone jack, built-in speaker, AC power adapter jack.
Battery 3.7V, 1530mAh lithium polymer, BA1001 model.
Physical size 7.5 × 5.3 × 0.7 in
(19.1 × 13.5 × 1.8 cm)
Weight 10.3 oz
(292 g)
Media capabilities Kindle (.azw), Plain text (.txt),
Unprotected Mobipocket (.mobi, .prc),
MP3 (.mp3),
Audible (.aa).
From: Amazon Kindle, Wikipedia, 2007

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