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Books Education

In Trial, Kindles Disappointing University Users 247

Phurge writes "When Princeton announced its Kindle e-reader pilot program last May, administrators seemed cautiously optimistic that the e-readers would both be sustainable and serve as a valuable academic tool. But less than two weeks after 50 students received the free Kindle DX e-readers, many of them said they were dissatisfied and uncomfortable with the devices. 'I hate to sound like a Luddite, but this technology is a poor excuse of an academic tool,' said Aaron Horvath, a student in Civil Society and Public Policy. 'It's clunky, slow and a real pain to operate.' '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 explained. '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.'"
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In Trial, Kindles Disappointing University Users

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  • Why? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Were they uncomfortable and dissatisfied when their assignments vanished shortly before their due dates?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by masmullin ( 1479239 )
      Teacher... Amazon ate my homework!
      • That old story of NASA spending millions of dollars to develop a pen that works in space, while the Russians just shrugged and used pencils. Mind you, I wonder what the wood/graphite shavings would do to the habitat, and specifically the air filters...
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Jurily ( 900488 )

            It doesn't matter whether it's true. The important thing in this anecdote is that it highlights the different thought processes concerning new technology, and doing that, it's believable enough to sustain itself decades after it's been proven false.

            Western cultures have this tendency to automatically assume that new technology will be better, and spend money on it before realizing the obvious shortcomings. Here, it's the fact that books are not read-only, even if they have little extra storage capacity, and

            • by Jurily ( 900488 ) <jurily@g m a i l . com> on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @03:07AM (#29577277)

              One more anecdote to reinforce my point: Once upon a time, I had a real programmer teaching me C. He did not let students pass who couldn't solve a small problem (like removing the next-to-last element of a singly-linked list) using only pen and paper. Every lecture, the first thing we did was to turn our computers off, and do one of these problems. Then he did the same at the blackboard.

              Guess what: we learned more from that than the rest of the lectures and the books combined. If the basic learning process is missing, technology doesn't give it back.

              • I barely touched a computer getting my CS degree. Most of my assignments were handed in as code (in the specified language) hand-written on paper in pencil.

                • by Jurily ( 900488 )

                  But did you have someone experienced show you his own thought process immediately afterwards? That was the valuable part of the lecture.

                  I'll get off your lawn now.

        • Funny, your comment reminded me of this:

          Russian Scientists Announce Six-Month Delay In Carving New Space Station []
        • by IWannaBeAnAC ( 653701 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @01:45AM (#29576841)
          As will no doubt be pointed out to you at length, that is an urban myth. Also, they don't and never did use graphite pencils in space. Graphite is a conductor - can you imagine what would happen if you had graphite dust floating around a spacecraft?
  • ...are the scum of the earth. I can't stand that! Take separate notes! Respect the text for future users! And they always write stupid crap in'em, too.

    Besides, they should've given'em to some real college students, like engineering majors. I'd love to stop carrying a pile 8 inches thick of textbooks around the campus every freakin' day. I mean, that can't be good for your back.

    • by masmullin ( 1479239 ) <> on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @12:22AM (#29576357)
      shuddap! the weight builds character, and prepares your posture for a lifetime of grovelling which every engineer needs when speaking to MBAs.
    • Oh come on, everyone knows the hand scrawled notes in the margins is where you find the most interesting spells.

    • by txoof ( 553270 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @12:32AM (#29576447) Homepage

      People who write in textbooks are the scum of the earth. I can't stand that! Take separate notes! Respect the text for future users!

      You have a choice when you get to the bookstore, you can pick the text that is brand new, the one that was obviously used by the guy that dropped out in the fifth week and is nearly pristine save for a few beer stains, you can pick the one that is loaded with all kinds of great notes, stickies and highlights of the most important stuff or something in between. It's your choice. I for one would rather stand on the toes of giants than try to reinvent the wheel.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @12:38AM (#29576473)
        I don't get this obsession with writing in books. You imply that only the best students mark all over a book. On the contrary, some of the best students don't need to go highlighting every single thought. By using the highlights of others, I think you place too much faith in the intelligence of mankind and, in particular, students.
        • by Ethanol-fueled ( 1125189 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @12:47AM (#29576515) Homepage Journal
          Only the rich kids are able to buy their own shiny new overpriced books, especially in this economy.

          The rest of us may choose to add to the scrawlings already written in our moldy piss-stained second editions when we're not consulting the handful of pirated PDF's and HTML help files.
          • A fair number of my professors photocopied the relevant sections from their own books and handed them out to the class. One mentioned that he made enough selling it elsewhere that he didn't need to burden his own students when we'd only need a few chapters from it.

        • I agree. The best students I know don't even buy the books, let alone write in them, because they're actually using the material in practice (hobby, job, overkilling lab work, etc.) and internalise it better than note-taking and highlighting ever could. They look lazy until you see what they can actually do.

        • by macshit ( 157376 ) <.snogglethorpe. .at.> on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @01:15AM (#29576661) Homepage

          By the same token though, I don't understand the obsession that some people seem to have with keeping their textbooks pristine...

          Clean books are nice, but so are the memory aids provided by one's own notes/bookmarks/etc.

          I admit, I don't like others' notes in my books, because they always seem completely wrong, and are merely distracting, not useful.

          I think notes and marks (and bookmark, etc) in books are mostly useful as pointers into your existing mental representation of the text, and sort of as a way of physically representing the act of reading -- e.g., it's easier to ensure you fully read the text instead of zoning out and skimming bits, if you're "actively" involved with it. [The same is true of keeping external notes, but that's even more work; which one prefers seems down to individual taste.]

          An e-reader with a well-done touch-pen interface that allowed actually writing in the margins, saving the notes externally, keeping multiple note layers, adding cross references, ... etc, might be even better than a physical book in some ways, but it doesn't sound like the kindle tech is up to it... (the speed of things like page flipping is also an important issue -- I find I flip around much more often reading academic/technical material than e.g. fiction)

      • by foobsr ( 693224 )
        I for one would rather stand on the toes of giants than try to reinvent the wheel.

        But if you have reiterated the process, you are well prepared to invent Wheel 2.0.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by samurai54 ( 1645989 )
        Personally, I love the people who write in all of my textbooks. It is nice to read the notes that are accurate, but to me, the inaccurate notes are even more helpful. Those tend to be the ones that really capture my attention. I always remember fixing the last person's mistakes, but I have much more difficulty remembering the definitions and theories that i quickly jostled done in my notebook.
      • by Rocketship Underpant ( 804162 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @03:04AM (#29577259)

        I agree. Harry Potter could never have made that potion on his first try if he had taken a new textbook!

      • by smoker2 ( 750216 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @05:39AM (#29577891) Homepage Journal

        I for one would rather stand on the toes of giants than try to reinvent the wheel.

        Toes ?
        Scared of heights are you ?

      • my experience with used textbooks is that if the previous owner was a highlighter, they'd mark entire paragraphs, and sometimes entire sections. Maybe that works for some people (I kind of doubt it though) but I find it distracting.

        When I purchased used books I took care to buy the book with the least amount of markings. If the only copies available were covered in highlighter yellow, I'd suck it up and pay the premium for the new book.

    • Seriously, nothing pisses me off more than reading a textbook that someone wrote in / highlighted in. It's rather distracting from trying to actually read what's in the book.

      The comment about cutting down on weight for real majors is pretty spot on too.......I'd love to have had some wimpy English major or some such where I didn't have colossal books to lug around all the time.

    • While marking up a book may decrease it's resale value considerably it doesn't decrease the value of the information it contains. I used to stop in at our local thrift-store (urban) and purchase used textbooks on subjects that interested me on the cheap. They has all sorts of scribbles, but for the most part the information was just as good as the day they'd bought it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by xtracto ( 837672 )

      ...are the scum of the earth. I can't stand that! Take separate notes! Respect the text for future users! And they always write stupid crap in'em, too.

      I more or less agree with that, but only in the case when the book is not of your property (e.g., form a library). I almost never write in any of my dead tree books, however I can understand that sometimes it good to write some "afterthought" you got from reading a paragraph (which makes it easier to understand), that way, the next time you read it, you just have to glance at your previous writings.

      Now, I like this snippet from the summary:

      bookmarks, highlights, page-tearing, sticky notes and other marks representing the importance of certain passages â"

      That is one of the reasons why I still print all the papers (I do re

    • Who is the half-blood prince?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by elnyka ( 803306 )

      ...are the scum of the earth. I can't stand that! Take separate notes! Respect the text for future users! And they always write stupid crap in'em, too.

      That is stupid. A book is someone's private property, and his owner can do whatever he wants with it. There is no obligation to respect any future user since the owner, when obtaining a new or used copy of a textbook, never got into a contractual agreement to preserve it for someone else. Writing on a book has been a long standing and useful tradition.

      What your self-centered mind dismiss, in a juvenile manner, what someone writes as stupid crap in'em, that actually made sense to someone else at some poi

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @07:53AM (#29578537)

      NASA tried to replace the books used in the mission control centers world-wide with electronic versions. The electronic version had methods to do everything you'd do with a paper book, except "feel" it. We had sticky notes, authors, readers, layers, callouts for running programs, shared views, remote control, text search across entire libraries, and heuristics to teach new flight controllers by watching older flight controllers work problems. And we were FAST, cross platform data, multi-language. After a few years of forced acceptance - no paper allowed - users slowly returned to paper.

      This program was used by NASA flight controllers, engineers and astronauts world-wide. That includes Russians, French, Canadian and other space agencies.

      It ran on Win32, Mac, DigitalUnix, Solaris, AIX, Irix, and perhaps others. I can't recall porting it to any other platforms. That was my job at the time, ports. The total project cost under $4M over 3 yrs. We were cheap and produced results. We taught Adobe some things too, but learned much from them.

      Regardless, it failed because humans like paper books, not for any technical reason.

    • Most unis don't handmedown textbooks. You can buy used ones where you can check if ppl wrote in them or get new ones.

      That said I think I would need 3 or 4 kindles easily for this to work out for me. I like looking at lots of things at once spread out over my desk. I also often stick a pencil in the reference section in the back so I can flip to it quickly. I think I could probably handle a half dozen kindle at once really. And I don't have 3 grand to drop on something that doesn't give me much of an advant
    • Like that fool Fermat who posited a solution to a problem that occupied mathematicians for hundreds of years.

      If you don't like the notes stop buying used text books.

    • by Scyber ( 539694 )
      I always just highlighted the completely irrelevant passages of the books. Then re-sold them. Nothing more entertaining than messing with the heads of students.
  • by freshfromthevat ( 135461 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @12:22AM (#29576359) Homepage

    I sent it back in September.
    The navigation was atrocious and slow, the books I would read cost more in electronic form than in paper form and had much more severe licensing than the paper form. Translating PDF media to Kindle form resulted in something much less readable than on a laptop. The web browser was pathetic. The display wasn't as high contrast as a 40 yr old paperback. The keyboard letter labels are too small.
    The darn thing was way too expensive for what it was.

    • That is so depressing to hear. I was excited to get a Kindle. I have hundreds of books, and a lot of them I can get as PDFs. I'm also a pilot, and a nice software developer put up free approach plates and Airport/Facility Directories ( formatted for the Kindle (being able to get your flight docs electronically is a big deal, much less paper to deal with). Sad day =( Some day I guess, just not yet.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        TooMuchToDo, I think you should keep reading comments here. You'll find that many of us like our Kindles. Find a friend that has one, try it, and decide for yourself. It takes some getting used to but it is now my preferred method for reading novels.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by DeadDecoy ( 877617 )
        You would probably like the kindle then. The current problem with the kindle is that they're not really built for the academic environment, in which reading is very much a task of information management. Without notes, highlighting, cross referencing, reference managers, a decent tagging scheme, a decent folder scheme, meta information sharing (references), and an open system to fill in the blanks, the kindle is going to do poorly in terms of that task; Especially with the comparable prices of eeepcs (cheap
    • by langelgjm ( 860756 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @07:42AM (#29578457) Journal

      I ordered one practically as soon as Amazon unveiled it, and I've been using it on pretty much a daily basis since July. I love it.

      Is the navigation slow? Yes. Is the keyboard almost useless? Yes. Does it suck that they don't have folders in which to organize your documents? Yes.

      On the other hand, the hundreds of pages of PDFs, articles, and book chapters I have to read for school are all stored in a single place. I can't stand reading stuff for any length of time on a computer screen; the Kindle's screen is much, much better. It also weights less than 2 lbs, which is much nicer to be carrying around in my bag all day in the city compared with my 5 lb laptop (small differences matter).

      I found a torrent containing thousands of science fiction books and read several novels on the Kindle. I'm using Calibre, and I have it set so that each morning at 6:30 AM, my computer starts, Calibre fetches news from several sources and puts them on the Kindle, and the computer shuts off at 6:40. By the time I've made coffee, the Kindle is sitting there with the days news ready for me to read.

      Obviously the built-in keyboard is pretty much useless, but I've always typed my notes separately anyway. Now, when I am done with my notes, I drop them in a watch directory on my home server; they are automatically converted to .MOBI format and put on a password protected website. Later, when I want them, I can just log into the site from the Kindle and download them directly to the home screen. This way I bypass Amazon's conversion service.

      My experience with PDFs has also been great. I can only think of one file that hasn't rendered properly, out of several hundred. Occasionally if the original document is a larger format, the text will be small, but for most of my journal articles, etc., it is pretty much the perfect size.

      It's definitely not perfect. I think it would be less useful for undergrads and more useful for grad students, who aren't going to be relying solely on commercial textbooks. It would be nice if you could take useful notes on the Kindle. It would be nice if it had a touchscreen like the iRex models. It would be nice if it had a lot of things. The question for me was, how long did I want to wait for all those features to become widely available? I am getting so much use out of the DX just as a reader that it has made it worth it for me.

    • I use mine for reading novels, and have saved about $1.50 per book, on average, with the Kindle.

      If you found a book which was more expensive on the Kindle, that's probably an anomaly.

  • by Dyinobal ( 1427207 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @12:26AM (#29576385)
    I got a kindle last semester and got E-books for all my text books. I really enjoyed not having to lug around books from class to class. There are a few things that are not quite as convenient as text books but over all I prefer my kindle. The sheer weight difference is just that staggering. I use to never bring personal books, with me when I went to my classes, it just wasn't worth it. Now I have a large number of fiction and other light reading books I can read a bit of during short down times.
    • by R.Mo_Robert ( 737913 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @01:39AM (#29576805)

      You're lucky: zero of my textbooks are available in electronic form. Additionally, I carried my Kindle around in my backpack for one day, in a case, and apparently a glass (?!) layer below the screen developed a crack, which Amazon refuses to place under the standard warranty.

      When I did use mine, I often found it too slow at turning pages (not that I do it frequently, but it's nice to be able to quickly flip through pages to find the one you want). PDF reading was decent at best but often practically unusuable--and I have a DX. (It works best if you make your own PDFs and format them specifically to the screen dimensions.) Not that any of this matters now; now I have a $489 paperweight.

      Note to future owners: get "accident" protection from SquareTrade or, if you must, Amazon itself. It will be worth it (although I'm not convinced I was rough at all with mine). Also, be sure to check availability if you plan to use it for any particular book; not everyone will be as lucky as the parent poster. Theoretically, the weight reduction would be nice; practically, you probably can't get every last book electronically, and you'll also have to deal with the fact that you're carrying a fragile sheet of glass in your bag instead.

    • My freshman year I bought every textbook and hauled them all around. Then I came to realize that in most classes I didn't actually need the book in class, so I started leaving it in my car or at home. By my senior year I only bought two books for nine classes. I found that in most classes (all but math) that simply going to class, taking good notes, and studying the material with my study group was enough for me to learn it, the book was just dead weight.

  • novels. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Lord Ender ( 156273 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @12:26AM (#29576389) Homepage

    I have one. It's great for novels. I've read ten sci-fi novels on it so far. Reading from the first page to the last is no problem, and having features like instant dictionary look-up is wonderful. But I'm not sure they would be so good for text books, where you're flipping back and forth a lot. To navigate any more than forward/back, you need to use a cumbersome, slow joystick thingy.

    Perhaps future Kindles with touch-screens would be good enough. The search feature would be pretty useful for academic purposes compared to dead-tree. But he's right: having to use that joystick to navigate in "random" directions (rather than next/previous page) is a pain.

    (oh and a bonus for the slashdot crowd: the Kindle is just Linux running some java reader app. you can actually install a full blown Ubuntu system via the USB port if you like.)

  • by NoPantsJim ( 1149003 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @12:27AM (#29576401) Homepage
    Not my textbooks, anyway.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the time I've spent messing around with other people's kindles. I plan to buy one, but I just don't see them working for textbooks.

    During my time in college, I never sold back one of my old textbooks, because I always "personalized" them so much during the semester by writing in, highlighting, and generally abusing all of them. Each and every one still sits on my bookcase, and I still reference them occasionally, as making them completely un-sell-back-able has made them exceptionally easy for me to use.

    I think the student is right. You can't fly through a Kindle e-book the same way you can with a solid textbook. I suspect the Kindle is just made for more linear reading.
    • I'm not sure about the rest of the group, but my college math books would have been great candidates for digitization. In all of my math courses:

      • Three semesters of calculus
      • Linear algebra
      • diff eq

      I relied on the professor to teach. The books themselves were fairly useless -- the examples were always too simple and the explanations usually had a lot of hand-waving. In any case, I generally left the books on the shelf until homework time, when they came out so that I could copy and evaluate the problem sets for

      • I had the exact opposite experience. Went through all those courses in 2 years of aerospace engineering before I jumped ship to air traffic control (had calc 1 done from high school AP). My textbooks were my bible. I found that if I needed to reference something, I could usually open the book and land on the right page within a few seconds of grabbing it off the shelf. I sincerely doubt it is that easy to find info in a Kindle book that quickly. As I said in my first post, the Kindle seems great for linear
        • by rwade ( 131726 )

          I had the exact opposite experience...My textbooks were my bible. I found that if I needed to reference something, I could usually open the book and land on the right page within a few seconds of grabbing it off the shelf.

          I suppose you just had useful textbooks. How novel...

    • I'd agree. I like my Kindle, in addition to novels, its great for weekly magazines that are mostly text as well (The Economist and Newsweek for me). However, it'll take a lot more to take over my physical textbooks.

      Still, what would be nice is if I could pay an extra ~$10 for kindle or PDF versions -- while they can't replace a good physical copy, I like being able to have most of the things I need to do work in one bag. Since I move between home/office/coffee shops/out-of-town travel I have a bad habit

      • I'd feel more comfortable using a laptop to view reference type materials. I love my Sony PRS-505 for novels and newspapers though. It's a good bit smaller than lugging around whatever I'm interested in reading at the moment (non-fic book, fic novel, a couple magazines).
  • by txoof ( 553270 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @12:29AM (#29576405) Homepage

    The quote in TFA sums up my objections to eBooks as replacements for texts fairly well. Bookmarks, dog-ears, margin notes and all the other ways we interact with books are more valuable than you might think at first. For example, I lent out one of my favorite cookbooks; for a while it looked like the borrower had lost the book. At first I didn't think this was too much of a tragedy as I could order another copy online cheaper than the original. Then it hit me, all of my notes, records, adjustments and comments were lost! All of the stains, broken spine and notes have a more value than I could put a dollar on. Without a way to incorporate that kind of interaction into an eBook, I fail to see how I could be coerced to switch to a reader.

    I believe the technology exists to allow interaction at the level that I want, but no one has offered a reader that even comes close yet. It seems rather trivial to add a touch screen, or even a small tablet that allows hand-written sketches or notes to be added to the pages. The Kindle allows virtual dog-ears, but they're hard to search and you don't get the visual interaction of a real book. I can run my fingers over the edge of the book and quickly find the dog-ear that I left 1/3 of the way into the book.

    What kinds of features would you like to see on an eBook to make it closer to a real book? What smart ideas do you have that would allow a user to interact, annotate and generally use a virtual book like a paper book? The most important on my list are margin notes, underlining, highlighting (and I mean highlight, not inverse text), sticky notes (I have no idea how this would work), and dog ears that are easily locatable.

    When eBooks can offer a greater level of interaction than we have today, students will flock to them. Who wouldn't rather carry one Kindle over a chemistry, calculus and circuits book to class? I keep hoping the next reader will be the one, but we're just not there yet. Perhaps we never will be. Captain Picard still kept dead-tree books around even though he had those nifty tablet thingiees.

    • It basically comes down to cost. Yeah, ebooks are kind of annoying and there may not be a way to fix that, but are they willing to drop the cost $30-$40 per ebook? As a student, that was a tradeoff I would have been willing to make.
    • " ... What kinds of features would you like to see on an eBook to make it closer to a real book? ..."

      Well, mostly, I want it to be made of paper.

  • Amen (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I've been saying this for years... it's just not the same. You really do *lose* something in electronic form, you just can't interact with the knowledge like you can with a good old fashioned book. I hope real books never go away!

  • by bloodhawk ( 813939 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @12:36AM (#29576465)
    I am the sort of person that loves tech, to an excess most people would say. My house is fully wired, I have a patch panel and rack cabinet in the garage. I can stream media to any room in the house and have at least 3 computers running at any one time (not including virtuals). Everything that can be computerised from my air con to the lights has been. However I will take a real book anyday over reading it on a screen or an e-reader device, whether it is a textbook or just a novel, can't explain it completely but it is just a "better" experience to me using a real book.
  • Plastic Logic (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kars ( 100858 )
    I'm hoping the E-reader from Plastic Logic ( [] ) will be a great improvement. Its display is said to be A4-sized, which would give it a diagonal of a little over 14". The biggest problem with most readers still seems to be the software, though. Either it's chock-full of DRM, or it's seriously lacking in features. Hopefully this one'll be different.
  • My life long hobby has been, and always will be, reading novels. I like my Kindle because I am never caught without a book and I no longer have to pack multiple books when traveling. For me, it works.

    I'm not surprised that it is not that great for student text books. But, guess what! It does not have to solve all problems for all readers to be successful.
    • The best thing about the Kindle is the portability. The last time I went on vacation I packed 4 books, and that was all I could fit in. Next vacation, I can take a dozen (or more) books on a device about the size of ONE hardback book.

  • by DogDude ( 805747 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @12:52AM (#29576539)
    The University had announced last May it was partnering with, founded by Jeff Bezos â(TM)86, to provide students and faculty members with the e-readers as part of a sustainability initiative to conserve paper.

    Why would anybody want to conserve paper? It's a very renewable resource. Tree/grass grows. Becomes paper. Paper rots as soon as book is no longer deemed useful.

    If anything, we should be conserving plastic and chemicals. Those are NOT renewable. Mine limited fossil fuels. Make plastic. Plastic still exists hundreds of thousands of years after usefulness of the object has expired.

    I'll take the real books, thanks!
    • by Macgrrl ( 762836 )

      A significant % of paper is produced using pulp from old growth forests. Even when farmed forests are used, the types of rapid growth trees used are often vastly different than the native ecosystem of the environments in which they are planted.

      The mantra for ecologically friendly use of resources is "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle". It's always better to use less of a resource then more.

      That said, I have not performed any analysis on the equivalent paper footprint to one Kindle. I suspect it is greater than 2 dozen

    • by evanbd ( 210358 )

      Plastic still exists hundreds of thousands of years after usefulness of the object has expired.

      Last I checked, every single example of 100,000-year-old plastic that was no longer useful had long since been dug up out of its landfill and recycled.

    • It's a very renewable resource.
      Same reason cotton and wool are not considered "green" products but hemp is.
    • Why would anybody want to conserve paper? It's a very renewable resource. Tree/grass grows. Becomes paper. Paper rots as soon as book is no longer deemed useful.

      Doesn't paper also sequester carbon (assuming the book doesn't get thrown away)? One thing it doesn't do is allow deletion of content remotely (except nuking from orbit, of course), prevention of lending to other people, etc.

  • by Selanit ( 192811 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @12:56AM (#29576567)
    Somebody tagged this "defectivebydesign", but that's not accurate here. The problem is that it was designed for mostly pleasure-reading, not for academic study (which, as the student pointed out, usually involves highlighting, marginal notations, and so on). I rather doubt the wicked Kindle designers set out to thwart undergraduates. It's just that's not really what they were shooting for. Me, I'm waiting for an e-Reader that supports a wide variety of formats smoothly, and has a much better refresh rate. My Mom has a Sony e-Reader, which runs Linux and worked pretty well when I tried it. The main problem with it is that I read pretty fast, and so I spent lots of time waiting for the screen to re-draw. When they've got the e-ink refresh rate up to civilized standards (say, 500 ms for a full screen, maximum), then I'll be interested.
  • As a college student I don't really carry much sentimental value towards textbooks. I hate them because they're expensive and I would love for a cheaper replacement. Unfortunately the Kindle is not it.

    I have a kindle and I love it for when I'm traveling and just reading a novel or a few articles but I tried using it as a textbook replacement and it was miserable. The difficulty of trying to multitask switching between pen and paper and scrolling pages with the kindle is too time consuming and f

  • You often hear people who have bought Kindles extolling the virtues of the unit; now I wonder how much of that comes from an attempt to squeeze value out of the machine and avoid buyer's regret by justifying the cost, even if through rose-tinted glasses. Despite all of the good press about the Kindle from a number of sources, celebrity and otherwise, you find cases like this where people have been GIVEN the Kindle and don't have much good to say about the experience.
  • Linear Reading (Score:5, Interesting)

    by digitalderbs ( 718388 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @01:27AM (#29576729)
    I've had a kindle 2 since it came out, and it's great for any book that is read front to back. A couple of my books are referential -- like a copy of the Bible -- and it's a nightmare to use. The device is too slow to jump between pages, even with TOC links and search functions.

    I've also read that the Kindle DX keyboard is next to useless.
  • I've never written in a textbook, or any other book for that matter, whether I own it or not. I've never intentionally torn any pages. Instead, I've always tried, sometimes rather hard, to understand the text and the concepts behind it -- and then I move on.

    Have I spent my entire life doing it wrong?

    (Or, perhaps alternatively: Am a prime candidate for getting real use from a Kindle?)

  • iRex iLiad (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @01:45AM (#29576839)

    I am an Australian, and as such Kindles are not viable for me, as they are not sold to Australian residents, and even if you get your hands on one, buying books is hard. Instead I purchased the only eBook reader officially sold in Australia - to my knowledge - the iRex iLiad.

    I am loving it.

    While it is not as high contrast as book paper, it is close. It is very readable, even for hours on end.

    Navigating is made a lot easier by the stylus driven touch screen, though it is hampered slightly by the slow page/screen refresh. I find it more than livable though. It would be a lot worse without the stylus.

    Once your in a book it is perfect, because you can change pages with the flick of a thumb. It is much better than holding a weighty book, and having to shuffle your arms around every minute or so to change pages.

    One of the coolest features relevant to this article is the ability to scribble over books. With the stylus you can write on top of books, and your notes will be saved in a file associate with the book. It also has a highlight feature.

    I must say though that I do not use it for academic research. Mostly personal research, and recreational reading. I personally think it would be fine for academia, but I don't have much experience in that field, so I can't really comment.

    My only real complaint is the lack of books. The range is terrible, and the prices only 2% to 5% cheaper than normal books. As such I am getting to know and love the many public domain books. A great site I have found for this is:

    • the iRex iLiad.

      A pity the device itself is EUR 600. You can buy quite a few dead-tree books for that kind of cash.

  • By the way, does anybody know how to open a document in Linux, on a given page: (a) in gsview and (b) in acroread ? In evince there is an option --page-label . But how to do this in gsview and acroread?
  • by martin-boundary ( 547041 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @03:36AM (#29577417)
    I try le Kindle as you ask, but I must say le interface iz brokken. I try to write in ze margin, I really do, but she is too small for writing proofs! For me, Kindle is not ready, and I send it back. Sorry!

    Best Wishes,
    P. de Fermat

  • I've just got myself a Sony e-book and while I like it it has limitations when compared to books.

    Its great for books with a narrative such as novels, but for text books reference books it major limitations is the navigation. With these types of books I want to flip backwards and forwards across multiple pages. Find Index, locate Subject etc. You cannot do that easily with a e-book so locating information even with search tools becomes a pain.

  • That sounds like patent fodder to me!

    "Apparatus and user-interaction method for paper-like electronic book interaction". An apparatus and input method for allowing the user of an electronic book reader device to interact with reading material in a way similar to that used with paper-based books.

    What is claimed is:

    1. An apparatus for reading electronic book texts
    2. The apparatus from claim 1 in which often-used pages get discolorations around the edges and borders.
    3. The apparatus from claim 2 in which the d

  • Why are all these fools using Amazon's locked-in crappy reader? A Kindle simply isn't suitable for professional work, or even students. iRex iLiad is still the only ereader with *correct* pdf rendering and mark up.

    • A Kindle simply isn't suitable for professional work, or even students. iRex iLiad is still the only ereader with *correct* pdf rendering and mark up.

      I think you mean the Kindle isn't suitable for you. Why do you generalize from your experience to all people?

      I looked at iRex's offerings before deciding to get a Kindle DX. iRex's definite strength is the Wacom pen input. If that's a necessity for you, then they are pretty much your only option. Not all of us need to write all over everything we read, though.

      iRex's products are also expensive! $699 for the iLiad, which has a smaller screen than the DX and isn't in stock, and $859 for the DR-1000... ouch. T

  • When you take technology out into the cold, hard world, things fall apart. If you want to even come close to the experience of using a book, look to the XO-1 [] for some lessons in utility and hardiness:

    1. Make it TOUGH. I can't count the number of times I've dropped my XO-1. The Kindle looks rather fragile.
    2. Make it CASELESS. If you have to carry around a case, you simply don't use the device as much. The XO-1's snap-and-go clamshell is a marvel. I'd be pretty hesitant to stuff a Kindle in between my other
  • I would estimate the half-life of a Kindle subjected to the usual slings and arrows of class-to-class migration at 4 weeks. They don't talk about durability in the article, but I know from (tragic) first-hand experience that those e-Ink displays make 1990s LCDs look tough.

    A Kindle is good as a travel reader of linear texts. For anything else, the contrast, fragility and slow speed make it highly inferior.

  • I've had my kindle 2 reset mysteriously on me.

    All the docs I'd downloaded over USB were gone, along with the notes I'd taken on them. They were the majority of what I had on the device, largely PDFs I'd converted to mobi format using Calibre on Linux. The docs I'd gotten over WhisperNet were archived and I was able to get them back. So if I'd indeed been using it to take notes I really needed later, I'd have been screwed.

    Lesson 1: Back up your Kindle, or totally embrace Amazon's version of the cloud in w

Always leave room to add an explanation if it doesn't work out.