Striking Sparks

I’m not surprised to hear about a study at the University of Washington that gives the Kindle (the large-size DX model) middling marks as an educational tool. We have a smaller Kindle and like it a lot for casual reading. The screen is extremely readable, the battery lasts for ages without recharging, and as long as you don’t need to hop back and forth in the text (for instance, to look at footnotes) and the text is formatted correctly, it’s a joy to work with. We who have just made a transcontinental move and given away about two-thirds of our (heavy) books appreciate the lightness and convenience of Kindle; it’ll never replace books, and there are still books we want to own as physical entities, but for many purposes the Kindle makes more sense than buying another pound of bound paper.
That seems to correspond roughly to the students’ response at Washington. For immersive reading, the Kindle comes out fine. For any form of multimodal reading — note-taking, reference-checking, research-seeking — it can be a pain to annotate or highlight text. I fully expect that the next few years will bring rapid improvements on that front, but for the time being I recommend the Kindle for fiction only, and probably not for what we might call “reference fiction” (which one might want to read with some to-ing and fro-ing).

7 thoughts on “Striking Sparks

  1. I have a Kindle DX and concur with the findings. Best for continuous reading (of a novel, for instance) but for nonfiction material to be absorbed, you do miss the cues a paper book gives you, such as where in the page block and where on the page you saw this or that information. But I’m addicted to Every Word, the anagram game on my Kindle DX. 🙂

    For my next device, as I work for HP, I’m waiting for the HP TouchPad. Next month, the rumors say, and prices similar to the iPad. WebOS, which I feel duty-bound to learn to use. Never used it before.

  2. @Mary — Sorry, I did mean simply “intercontinental”. My brain wasn’t ticking over yet.
    @Scott — Margaret finds the mere absence of page numbers a fatal problem with electronic texts; every time I propose a substitute, or “improvement”, or alternative, or just plain kludge, she sticks firm to the non-negotiable necessity of page numbers. And she’s not anti-digital in general; she just needs those points of reference.

  3. oh now, see, i have a kindle and a nook, and it’s the nook (not the color one) that i use for fiction. it has page numbers, but that’s not why; it’s because any non-fiction work of even moderate intellectual weight is either not available through B&N or is prohibitively expensive there. i found it necessary, not to mention worth the $$, to buy a kindle when their price came down even though i already had a nook (which i prefer.) amazon has the distribution sewn up, or had last year, at any rate.

    if i were still reading for academic purposes, though, i think i would have to be paper.

  4. I concur about non-annotated reading. I’ve been reading on Kindle for a while, and it’s mostly pleasure reading: novels, entertaining nonfiction, some newspaper and magazine.

    But it’s not really a problem to turn to another device as a supplement. Consider the mp3 player as a parallel. When you listen to, say, a fine podcast, you can’t annotate the thing on the go, nor check out references. You need to head to a laptop or desktop for these.

    With ebooks, it’s similar. I pull up my laptop and Google an author, or reviews, or fact-checking. That’s where I blog, add to Goodreads, Twitter or Facebook. That’s also where I’m likely to find another ebook copy, too, maybe on Google Books.

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