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Amazon Kindle Leaves Paper Books in the Dust

What is it?  The most popular and widely purchased entrant in the growing electronic reader market, the Amazon Kindle is a black-and-white electronic reading device. Lightweight and very thin, the Kindle allows you to carry thousands of books with you, downloading from either a WiFi connection or through 3G service. Two versions of the device are sold, one which costs more and has built-in 3G Internet service (with no additional monthly fee) and one that only connects to the Internet via WiFi networks.

How does it work? Kindle works largely through Amazon’s Kindle store. In the store, you can search for books and purchase them. The Kindle has a full QWERTY keyboard; this makes entering search terms relatively painless compared to entering them on e-readers, which rely on touchscreens. Upon purchase, the book is downloaded to the device in a matter of seconds. You can also buy books (or even get them for free) from a number of other Web sites, but the device is made to work most easily with the Amazon Kindle store. The Kindle also has a rudimentary Web browser and the ability to play MP3s, though these features are not well developed.

How hard is it to use?  The Kindle is very simple to use. The device comes with a straightforward guide that explains how to connect to an existing Amazon account or set up a new one. Most features require no more than two button pushes, and reading books requires little more than clicking on the book and using simple “up” and “down” page buttons to move through the title. There is almost no learning curve, and even the non-technically adept would be able to quickly use the device.

How well does it work? Though the Kindle is an electronic device, it works almost like an actual book. The screen is not backlit, and the words appear as if they were printed in traditional ink. Kindle readers do not complain of the eye strain or fatigue normally associated with reading on an electronic device. That said, while most books released for Kindle are formatted like their print counterparts, some suffer from lazy conversions. In some cases that means bad font choices which make the books harder to read, and in others it’s less important things like pictures and captions appearing on different pages. Kindle is much less effective for books that are graphics-dependent, and it does not work at all for printed things like sheet music (though many titles are available).

How do I use it in the classroom? You could have pretty much any book you want on the Kindle format if you chose to read books that way, but the larger question is whether you allow students to use a reading device that might allow them to access the Internet. If they choose to use a Kindle at home, there's not much you can do to stop them and no reason you should. If students are using one in the classroom, however, you should consider that it may be much easier for them to read something that was not assigned.

Related resources

The Online Books Page

Read about other products featured in the Tech in the Classroom series.

Tech in the Classroomis a recurring feature that examines widely available technology, software and gadgets and how they might be used in a school setting.


Article by Daniel Kline, EducationWorld Contributing Editor
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