The Kindle as a digital textbook (in reply to @joshchandler)

Now that the kindle is finally coming to the UK, my opinions of it are a bit more pointed.

First, I have a huge library of books The one drawback of this is that it takes up large volumes of space. So the kindle does have one major advantage for me personally. And i don’t have any problem with dead-tree printing. The downside is that none of those books are going to be on my new kindle.

Second, Josh Chandler’s post specifically highlights the use of the Kindle in collage and universities. This was a major selling point of the Kindle, and later of the Kindle DX. Being a programmer, the DX is my only option if i want it for textbooks. And the DX is expensive (if I’m only buying a few textbooks, I’m better of buying the dead-tree versions). Aside: a Zune-like subscription service would be much better.

Third, the kindle has Newspapers and blogs, plus any PDF you care to email to it. This has obvious advantages. I enjoy reading the paper every now and again. And i have a few e-books that i could see myself emailing to the kindle. Nasa, for example has a great library of Histories that are available on the web for free. Those that aren’t in PDF, I point acrobat at the address and acrobat downloads them. There’s my e-book. So again, another use I have for the kindle.

Forth. How does the Kindle handle PDF DRM on my existing e-books?? I already have a few technical books in PDF that I bought. Will i be able to use them on a Kindle??

Now the PDF standard is actually capable of far more that most people actually use it for. PDF is built for this kind of digital textbook use case. Its annotation tools, for example are second to none.

Does the kindle use this format?? No. Does it use the openPub standard that Google’s e-books are available in?? No. (as a programmer this offends me greatly). As a result, all the hype about the DX being used at Princeton etc actually has come to nought. Students rarely use it. Why?? Annotation. Remember I can WRITE, CIRCLE, HIGHLIGHT, DOODLE (and so on) on a dead-tree book.

The Kindle could do much more as a digital text book. Remember the Apple iTablet is a-coming and ,as things stand right now, given the choice between a dedicated dead-tree replacement, and a fully fledged computer/personal media player that also is a dead tree replacement and does everything the Kindle does, better, you know where I’d be going.

Coincidentally, me and my fellow students are picking honours year projects. One suggestion I made was to take the diagrams and so on from the smartBoards (they must have an API, surely), and merge them with the PDF version of the notes. (PDF has an API). Seriously, how great would that be?? Currently I draw all that stuff on my laptop (Kudos to which ever genius laid out the Ribbon in Word 2007, BTW). So what my lecturer is doing on the board magically appears on my PDF. Tie that with a kindle and you have instant student heaven/nirvana. 

If Amazon is serious about the ability of the Kindle to make a splash in the student market, these are the kinds of things it needs to be thinking about. Apple is so successful with its products because they make them indispensible. Amazon needs to do stuff like that to make the kindle indispensible for the serious student.

So it has the POTENTIAL to be the perfect digital textbook.

Will Amazon see that???