Books Are Here To Stay: Kindle And IPad Not Ready For College Classrooms

July 7, 2010

Stack of Books on Desk in College ClassroomProfessors and students were excited when electronic readers, such as the Amazon Kindle and Apple iPad, were released. With many students complaining about expensive textbooks, universities are trying to find ways to lower costs. So when the opportunity to participate in a year-long pilot program for the Kindle arose, universities across the nation did not hesitate.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, seven universities were asked to test the Kindle in a classroom setting. After a few months, most students stopped using the e-reader, saying it was not user-friendly and difficult to use in the classroom.

"It's an amazing device for recreational reading, but it's not quite ready for prime time in higher education," says Daniel Turner, associate dean of the masters and executive education programs at the University of Washington's Foster School of Business. reports that university professors wanted to see how e-readers would compare with traditional textbooks and whether or not they would help lower book costs and improve student learning.

Overall, the Kindle did lower book costs and students liked its portability, but found that it was somewhat challenging to use when studying. Students found it difficult and awkward to highlight lines and take notes, saying the tiny buttons were hard to use and the keyboard was not ergonomic. A faculty member at Reed College in Portland, Oregon says the Kindle's inability to efficiently take notes may cause students to read passively and, therefore, reduce their ability to retain complex information.

At Princeton University, students found that the Kindle was difficult to use during group discussions. With traditional textbooks, students are used to flipping through pages, but when using an e-reader the class had problems getting to the same location in a text.

Bloomberg Businessweek reports that MBA students at the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business disliked the Kindle's inability to organize cases. When asked if they would recommend the Kindle to fellow students, 86 percent said they would not. 96 percent, however, would recommend the device for personal reading.

Students at Foster School of Business also disapproved of the Kindle. The school began the pilot in January with 61 students participating; by the Spring quarter, only 17 students continued to use it.

Furthermore, Jakob Nielsen of Neilsen Norman Group adds that it takes longer to read books on a Kindle and iPad. According to Mashable, Nielson conducted a study with 24 participants who read short stories by Ernest Hemingway in traditional print and on the iPad, Kindle and desktop PC. After reading, everyone was asked to complete a questionnaire to make sure participants did not just skim through the material. The results show that when compared to print, reading speeds on the iPad declined by 6.2 percent and 10.7 percent on the Kindle. Nielson argues that universities will most likely avoid e-readers if further studies prove that they negatively affect reading speeds.

From these studies, it appears most students will continue to prefer textbooks over e-readers until significant improvements are made. "[The Kindle] just [doesn't] have the features or the sort of user friendliness to make it practical, let alone helpful," said Joe Chard, a first-year MBA student at Darden, in Bloomberg Businessweek.

Compiled by Staff


"E-book Readers Bomb on College Campuses,", June 10, 2010, Alison Damast

"iPad and Kindle Reading Speeds," July 2, 2010, Jakob Nielsen

"Kindle and iPad Books Take Longer to Read than Print [Study],", July 3, 2010, Lauren Indvik

"Profs: Kindle no threat to college textbooks,", July 6, 2010, Anne Ryman

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