$80 Kindle 4 Might Be Problematic For Amazon’s School Penetration
It is no secret that Amazon has its eyes on getting Kindles into schools. That was pretty clear even before the Kindle DX pilot programs and Kindle textbook rentals. The best part of that for them is that many students and teachers would just love to adopt the new technology. Unfortunately the issue of accessibility has gotten in the way of such efforts in the past and seem likely to intrude even more so now with the release of the $80 basic Kindle.
The initial efforts to get students and teachers to adopt the Kindle met with some complications. There are objections to the eReader in general, based on the idea that, since students are trained from early on to highlight and annotate their books while reading actively, they will find themselves less engaged than usual in non-paper books. This isn’t unreasonable, but it basically amounts to the argument that things shouldn’t change because things have always been this way. A bit circular. At best, this side implies that early adoption is essential.
We also get people concerned that a Kindle will be a bad long-term investment due to the stranglehold of the Agency Model on pricing, which results in less substantial savings than seem reasonable. This was more of a concern in the past, and will probably come up rarely now that an $80 Kindle is available. The fact that students now have an extremely cheap option open to them that can borrow library books and rent texts from Amazon will likely be a big draw.
Official endorsement, and the potential for textbook replacement that that would provide, is still unlikely. The legal complication regarding accessibility remains a large one. Since eBooks cannot provide equal access for the visually impaired, they can’t replace textbooks in most school systems. The Kindle seemed to be on its way to addressing these concerns with features like Text to Speech, but even that isn’t quite there yet. It doesn’t help that publishers can turn the feature off, of course.
With the new Kindle’s complete lack of audio capability, the existing objections gain even more traction. Now even if Amazon did find a reasonable way to address the conversion of print to audio that satisfied opponents, there would still be the problem of it not being applicable to the most affordable level of the price tier system.
If I had to make a guess, honestly, I would say that Amazon seems to have given up on the idea of formal adoption by the school systems. The new approach, which definitely seems to have more potential, is a direct marketing to the students and parents of students. It avoids bureaucracy and still manages to save everybody money in the long run.
As eReaders in general and the Kindle in particular become ever more common, it won’t be too hard to get educators to be a bit more open to their presence in the classroom. Lots has been done to make it more possible, from real page numbers to shared annotation, to make the Kindle more appealing in this market. They’re not going to abandon it entirely.