Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Kindle - What Does it Mean?

Are you familiar with Amazon's Kindle, the electronic reader? Did you know that they just released the second edition? Several days ago, I asked my friend, Steve Hargadon, why anybody would buy a Kindle if they had a smart phone. Steve replied that the text on the Kindle has a much higher resolution than a smart phone. Furthermore, the Kindle's shape resembles a book much more than a smart phone.

The new Kindle is still expensive at $359.00. But, consider the features of the Kindle.
A. It can store 1500 books at one time.
B. Readers can highlight texts and add annotations.
C. Readers can easily look up difficult words
D. Readers can choose between several different styles of font and text size.


Keep this information about Kindles in mind and now consider the weight of many traditional school textbooks. During the months of December and January I was working on a contract that required me to carry around two large social studies textbooks. I might not be really strong - but my bag was uncomfortably heavy. I'm a healthy adult but consider the backs of children and young adolescents who must carry textbooks. Why should they have to do this?

Do you know any children that have ever lost textbooks or left books that they need in school? Publishing companies and schools could most certainly work out deals with Amazon and other companies that would allow students to access books both at home and at school. (These books could be accessed on Amazon's Kindle, smart phones, or even computers.) My point: there's no need to lose textbooks or forget them at school anymore. (How many teachers have to send students back to their lockers to fetch textbooks that they forgot to bring to class? I suspect most teachers would be happy to avoid this aspect of classroom management.)


So, now, if you are anything like me, you are probably asking, so how can publishing companies make money with this model?

Publishing companies could likely make either as much money or more money selling digital books that could be read on smart phones or Kindles. After all, how often does a typical school district currently purchase textbooks? These districts don't have to purchase books every year because they use the same book from year to year. A publishing company can't make a physical book disappear. However, using innovative Digital Rights Management systems, publishing companies could make digital books expire after a set amount of time. So, each year schools would have to repurchase access rights. (Likely, rights for a year of access would cost less money than a textbook. But, over multiple years, the publishing company could generate an equal amount of revenue.)

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