Some Students Uncomfortable With New Kindle E-Book Reader

By CityTownInfo.com Staff
October 5, 2009

Seven colleges have agreed to test out Amazon.com's new Kindle DX e-book reader this semester, but many students are already complaining of problems using the gadgets.

"I hate to sound like a Luddite, but this technology is a poor excuse of an academic tool," said Aaron Horvath, a student at Princeton University quoted in the school's student newspaper, The Daily Princetonian. "It's clunky, slow and a real pain to operate."

He noted that using the Kindle has required him to completely alter the way he studies. "Much of my learning comes from a physical interaction with the text: bookmarks, highlights, page-tearing, sticky notes and other marks representing the importance of certain passages--not to mention margin notes, where most of my paper ideas come from and interaction with the material occurs," he said. "All these things have been lost, and if not lost they're too slow to keep up with my thinking, and the 'features' have been rendered useless."

Ted Humphrey, a professor at Arizona State University--where the Kindle DX is also being tested--told The Chronicle of Higher Education last month that keeping all students on the same page can be tricky. He explained that there are no page numbers for books on the Kindle; instead, every passage has a "location number" which allows users to jump to that section. But the numbers can be long, and students can easily make mistakes when attempting to locate the right text.

"You have to hold down an 'alt' button to type in the numbers," noted Carson Cook, a student at the university using the Kindle DX in a Western civilization course.

Stan Katz, a professor who teaches Horvath at Princeton, told The Daily Princetonian that the location numbers can indeed pose a challenge, and noted that they are "meaningless for anyone working from analog books." He has, however, permitted his students to use location numbers in their written work for the course.

The Wall Street Journal reports that administrators and professors at Princeton are still undecided about the gadget. "This is very, very early," said Serge Goldstein, the institution's associate chief information officer and director of academic services. "We expected the devices to have plusses and minuses, no surprises there."

Students at Reed College in Oregon, meanwhile, came up with a list of about 10 improvements for the Kindle after using the gadget for a month. The suggestions included providing page numbers and an easier way for taking notes and highlighting.

Not all of the reaction has been negative. Luis De La Cruz told the Chronicle that he appreciates the Kindle's built-in dictionary feature, which allows users to access definitions of words easily. "In my case," he said, "since English is a second language, there are many words that have never crossed my face."

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