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E-Text Reader Faculty Pilot Study

Printable version (MS Word)

Product: Kindle Reader
Reviewer: Ms. Rachel McBroom (Biology)

1. How easy is it to use?
The Kindle is extremely easy to use.  The Kindle 2 User’s Guide is pre-loaded and provides sufficient details on the how to operate the Kindle.  It also provides a quick overview of the many features of the Kindle (changing text size, activating the read aloud function, built-in dictionary, highlighting, annotations, etc).  I was ready to use the Kindle after skimming only the first few pages of the user’s guide.  The majority of the functions were intuitive once I learned about the Home and Menu screens.  However, for users who may not be as accepting of new technologies, I believe that the user’s guide provides clear and succinct directions that all users can follow.

2. Is the functionality versus a textbook worth the cost of the reader, the e-text and the learning curve?

a. Capable of highlighting? Yes
b. Capable of notes in margins? Yes
c. Links to definitions, graphs, glossary, etc? Built-in dictionary
d. Capable of enlarging font for sight-impairment? Yes, multiple sizes available.
e. Audio for low or no vision users? Yes

3. Is the technology of quality material and components?

a. Withstand wear and tear? Very durable.
b. Long battery life? The battery life is excellent.  I was able to read several trade books in a single charge.

4. Would you use this technology instead of textbooks if e-books are available for download? Or, would you prefer a laptop with the same or more functionality, in addition to the computer functionality a laptop affords?

While I personally think the Kindle is pretty cool, I do not think that it can compete with the functionality of e-books on a computer.  It may be appropriate for English classes, but much of the functionality of science textbooks are lost on the Kindle.  Science texts are extremely dependent upon images and graphs that use a variety of colors.  Since the Kindle only has a black and white display, color coded graphs in science texts were extremely difficult to interpret.  Additionally, many of the images in the biology and chemistry texts that I reviewed where significantly distorted.  This is especially critical in the sciences, where images must illustrate microscopic components.  When zooming in on images, the resolution was so low, that I could not read and/or identify the structure and text identifying the structure in the image.  This would put students using an e-book on the Kindle at a significant disadvantage in a science classroom. (The newer Kindle set to be released later this year may resolve this issue with its larger screen.)

One of the perks of the Kindle is the availability of texts for $9.99.  This is certainly true for trade books, but the science textbooks that I looked at were much more expensive (the costs are probably comparable to the cost of purchasing the same book used from an online dealer).  I downloaded samples of several different science textbooks (the majority of the textbooks that I selected based on the topic and their potential to be used in college classrooms cost more than $50 each).  The samples generally only contain the table of contents and 1-2 chapters of material.  I also was unable to locate the textbooks currently adopted and used in freshmen biology and chemistry on UNCP’s campus.  I’m sure that the faculty teaching these courses would not want their textbook selection to be limited to the availability of titles for the Kindle.  I found very few titles that would be appropriate for my science education methods courses.

Overall, I think e-books and a laptop would be the better tool in an academic setting.


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Updated: Tuesday, August 18, 2009


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