Another problem with the Kindle: You can’t write on the pages.

30 07 2009

Look’s like it’s time for another Kindle post. I must have skipped over the part of the Nicholson Baker article that Stan Katz is referring to here:

He [meaning Baker in the New Yorker] also reports that Amazon has struck a deal with several universities, Princeton among them, to test the DX’s “potential as a replacement for textbooks and paper printouts of courseware.” Our participation is partially supported by an environmental foundation, since one of the university’s objectives is to cut down on the huge number of pages of copy-paper used by students to print out their e-reserve assignments.

As it happens, I am one of the three instructors who have volunteered to participate in our Kindle DX pilot project. Unlike Nicholson, my default is to give technology a chance, and I am curious to see what it will be like to use the Kindle device for my course reading assignments. I should mention that the predictable has already happened, and an ADA suit alleging discrimination against the visually-impaired has been brought against one or more of the institutions piloting class use of the Kindle. We had planned from the start to make use of the device optional for students, so I hope this will not be a problem for us.

Textbooks? Really? Even in the pre-Nicholson baker days when I was still coveting a Kindle I never imagined using it for textbooks, but of course Amazon did since they want a slice of the dough. If this could actually bring down the cost for students, I probably ought to support that effort. But I can’t.

In every class I teach, I recommend to students that they mark up their textbooks. That means bending pages, hi-lighting and especially writing what they think of particularly important passages as they encounter them. This is not just to make writing papers easier because it’s easier to find the quotations you’ll use as evidence, critically engaging the book helps them read better.

Sure searching the text of a book is nice. Indeed, I use that function on Google Books all the time now, but you can’t write a paper that requires a deep reading of the book that way. Is it even possible to skim if you have to push a button to turn the page?

Kindles strike me as a great tool for reading novels on airplanes, but I really hope they don’t kill marginalia. How else can people make all their books unique?

Update: My apologies to Amazon. Apparently you can make margin notes on a Kindle. However, it seems that Amazon can also delete them, so that last question still stands.




One response

10 11 2013
In which I make an embarrassing admission. | More or Less Bunk

[…] “Kindles are for suckers,” “Kindles are still for suckers,” and much more along these lines. To summarize, I went from wanting a Kindle desperately, to hating them horribly, to […]

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