Last weekend I spent in Best Buy, waiting for the world’s slowest customer associate to bring me Kindle Wi-Fi. During the [insert a large number here] minutes of me standing near the Kindle display, and the associate going back and forth: writing down, re-writing and double checking the code in order to check if they have any Kindle Wi-Fi’s in stock, I pondered about the world’s slowest turtles and the meaning of life. After the eternity, I learned that they do not have any Kindle Wi-Fi’s left in stock. A logical person would leave the store and perhaps, order the damn thing online. An irritated person, however, grabs the available box with Kindle 3G with one hand, and holding a sweaty (by this time) Best Buy’s get 10% off coupon (the original reason, why I ended up in Best Buy) with another hand and heads over to the cashier. Well, the coupon does not apply to Kindle, which says so (the cashier points into the tiny card) in very fine print. Perhaps, a logical person gets pissed and walks away. But not me, I like sticking to my plans and that is how I ended up getting Kindle 3G.
So here are my first impressions.
Impression #1: (as I unwrapped my purchase immediately in the car) OMG, it fits in my purse!!!
Impression #2: (as I got extremely hungry, while waiting for the world’s slowest customer associate, I went straight to the restaurant. I started playing with my new Kindle and accidentally pressed the text to speech button) OMG, how do I turn off this Robocop’s voice reading Jane Austen?
And now, to the serious business.
Pages. The page-turning buttons are extremely comfortably located. Flip. Flip. Flip. Ah, it feels nice.
Keyboard. The arrow keys are hit and miss. Sometimes, I click and nothing happens. Sometimes, I do not click and the unwanted things occur.
Also, there is plenty of unused space between the keyboard and the screen: why not have a full keyboard (i.e. include the number keys)?
Normal headphone jack instead of those annoying custom ones – awesome!
Text to speech feature: nice to have it, but I don’t think I will be using it at all.
When I was in high school about 10 years ago, the only solution to avoid lugging around super heavy books was to make extra trips to your locker, or use a rolling book bag. Rolling book bags should have been more adequately named “rolling hazards.”
Clearwater High School students just got their own personalized Kindles Thursday that are set to replace their textbooks. It is amazing how quickly the Kindle can solve that problem, huh? Each student got a Kindle that was programmed with their own class schedule. They can take notes, look up words in the device’s built in dictionary and use the text to speech feature.
As far as cost goes, the Kindles have saved the school money because it has cut the cost of books. A Kindle is a natural fit for high school students because they are already so technology savvy with texting, Facebook and other technologies. The Kindle makes reading and education so much more engaging and exciting.
My question is, how well will these students take care of their Kindles? Regular textbooks are cheaper to replace and often suffer a great deal of wear and tear. Having a Kindle might just teach the students how to be more responsible because electronics can’t take the amount of wear and tear that regular books can.
I’m surprised that the Kindle DX has not had as much success on college and university campuses so far. I guess it is because are just not that many textbooks available yet. There are ways to digitize textbooks, but they can require destroying the book. It would also not be very cost effective in the end to digitize the book on your own.
It does look promising though that textbooks will soon be available digitally. For science majors especially, who have to lug around really big, expensive books, that would be a lifesaver.
With the announce of the new and updated Kindle, Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) may have offhandedly and with little fanfare cleared away their largest hurdle to being considered a valid teaching tool. Earlier this year, courts ruled that the use of Kindle devices in the classroom was discriminatory against students with disabilities since navigation of menus via the popular text-to-speech option was unavailable and therefore the device was effectively inaccessible to the visually impaired. Today, if you look toward the very bottom of all the feature lists on the sales page, you can find a quietly inserted “Voice Guide” for menus that will lead users through navigation in exactly the way they were told was necessary.
So, can we expect to be seeing eBook-based curricula and eReaders on the student shopping lists in the near future? It’s difficult to say for certain, but chances aren’t great in most places. Given the new features, and especially the $139 pricing of the Kindle WiFi, it seems a more viable option than ever before for new students. It will take years for it to truly establish a presence, however. Doing analytical reading on such a device requires completely different notation habits than are currently espoused by most students and professors, so our most likely early adopters in the education scene are going to be incoming students without much in the way of established habits. I think it’s going to happen, especially in the humanities, but it’ll take time and exposure, since there’s more to academic reading than simply turning the pages and enjoying yourself.
There are a lot of good reasons to pick up a Kindle. It’s neat to read, occasionally very useful for its ability to be a portable internet device, and it saves on effort and potential injury when you compare it to the hundreds or thousands of paperbacks you might otherwise have to carry down a flight of stairs on moving day. One of the less talked-about uses, however, is as a vessel for audiobooks.
Having worked with the Kindle while helping out students with learning disorders, I can tell you that this is a really useful feature. It’s also proven helpful with an elderly relative of mine who sometimes has trouble even with the device’s largest font sizes, but who still really loves her books. The Text-to-speech feature isn’t bad, though it can trip over some words in odd ways sometimes. I personally prefer to go with actual narrated book readings. It adds something that, if you’re forced or inclined to be listening to a book rather than reading it yourself in the first place, helps significantly with personal immersion.
Since I’m sure there are those of you out there who agree with me, as there are certainly those who find my position ridiculous, I figured it was worth pointing out the current incentive for people still on the fence about the usefulness of eReaders. For the moment, Amazon is offering a discount of $100 off their device if you sign up for a year of Audible.com membership. I don’t really know how limited a time this offer is, but I’d guess not terribly. It’s been around a while. I personally consider it a worthwhile investment if you’re interested in audiobooks. Audible provides good prices on good readings of good books. What more can you ask, really? Chances are that if you’ve read this far into the post, you’re interested in audiobooks anyway. Might as well get a discount on your Kindle and a new source for your reading all at once, right?
Amazon recently added the reading aloud feature to the Kindle and now the device will be able to read books out aloud so that e-texts are more easily accessible. This step has generally been appreciated by everyone except the National Federation of the Blind. As a result, educational institutions participating in the Kindle pilot program have refused to go ahead with further rollouts.
Although NFB’s rejection might seem counter-intuitive on the surface, it actually is’nt. The NFB does not have a problem with the feature itself (and probably does appreciate it) but they do have a problem with the menu system that contains the feature lower within the menu tree. As a result, users have to go through multiple button presses to get to it. Hence, visually impaired individuals are likely to find if extremely difficult to turn on the read aloud feature without sighted assistance. The NFB also suggests that the menus themselves should be read out aloud to the user for better universal access.
The participating universities – University Of Wisconsin-Madison and Syracuse University, New York – have declared that they will not implement the Kindle on a larger scale before it becomes more universally accessible.
Even though this is a hurdle for Amazon, it does prove that Kindle is still the only eBook reader that has made significant forays into classrooms. And this hurdle is not likely to last very long either. The demanded universal access features will no doubt be added soon because they are already commonly found in devices.
Kindle currently has a bright future in the education field if the corporation behind it plays all its cards right. And so far, the steps taken in this direction have been quite fruitful. If Kindle is fully integrated into the education system, it will probably be the beginning of a mini-revolution that will change the way education is imparted.
A bit old but funny. A sketch from Late Night With Jimmy Fallon which has the Kindle 2 reading passages from The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe and Dreams of My Father by Barack Obama. All set to candlelight and classical music. Oh, and it tells jokes too!
Arizona State University is one of six schools of higher education that are planning to deploy the Kindle DX this fall. They are, however, coming under fire from both the National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind over its use.
The two organizations have jointly filed suit against ASU in an attempt to stop the Kindle’s planned usage. While the Kindle does include a text-to-speech feature, all menus and navigation, including the ability to activate text-to-speech, are completely inaccessible to blind students. According to the lawsuit, if any University uses the Kindle as their primary means of textbook distribution, it is in clear violation of federal accessibility standards. A press release detailing the plaintiff’s position can be found here.
Public Universities, being governmental institutions, are required by federal law to meet strict guidelines regarding accessibility. Since the Kindle clearly does not meet these guidelines, there only seems to be two possible ways this could turn out: Either ASU (and the five other schools) cancel their plans to use the Kindle, or Amazon releases an update which adds accessibility features to the Kindle Store and menus. It would be a relatively simple software change for Amazon to make, so hopefully that is the route that things take. Then, the only problem would be the legal issues surrounding text-to-speech itself.
Today my Kindle 2 updated itself to 2.0.1 (303870012) without even me noticing it. I had very hard time figuring out what this update is about since it’s not officially announced by Amazon (although it’s listed on the source code page) however – here’s what I could gather:
This may or may not be related to selectively disabling text-to-speech feature on some books since on one hand the updated started circulating among limited number of users before the decision was announced. On the other hand it’s very logical that Amazon prepared the code that started testing it on limited number of Kindle’s before it made the official announcement.
Some users have reported that 5-way controller got an acceleration feature (cursor starts moving faster after a second of holding the controller in some direction). I checked and it really seems to be the case now, though I can’t say that the feature wasn’t there in the first place.
At first it was rumored that this update addresses some kind of hardware issue that affects only some devices however this proved false since gradually more and more Kindle owners are getting this update.
I’ve downloaded both 2.0 and 2.0.1 source codes, ran a WinDiff (a program that finds changes in the source code) and here’s what I’ve found:
Several changes in power management code including the code that talks to MC13783 power management controller. These are most likely to improve battery life.
Minor change in code related to ISP1504 USB Hi-Speed transciever.
This only entails changes made to GPL portion of the Kindle source. Amazon code that controls high-level Kindle functions is not published so there’s no telling what was changed there. My personal guess would be that it is the text-to-speech update that was released before decision was publicly announced.
Instructions for manually installing this update can be found here. Use at your own risk!
Macworld reports that Amazon would allow copyright holders to disable text-to-speech feature which was introduced in 2nd generation Kindle. This seems to be part of the concession with the Authors Guild. Earlier this month Authors Guild accused Amazon that this feature infringes copyright and undermines the market for audio books. In it’s statement Amazon stated that the text-to-speech feature is legal, because no copy is made, no derivative work is created and no performance is given.
Well.. this seems to settle it. In my personal opinion text-to-speech was no threat to audio books because although much better than most voice synthesis systems I’ve experienced so far it still falls way short of professionally read audiobooks. It is also as much copyright infringement as me reading bed time stories to my daughter… But that’s just my personal opinion. It’s amazing what a law suit threat can do in a modern corporate world.
I just hope that few copyright holders would actually choose to exercise this ability to opt-out because this feature actually comes quite handy on long commutes when I don’t have any audiobook to listen to.