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Amazon Kindle Fails First College Test 256

theodp writes "If Amazon hoped for honest feedback when it started testing the Kindle DX on college campuses last fall, writes Amy Martinez, it certainly got its wish. Students pulled no punches telling Amazon what they thought of its $489 e-reader. But if Amazon also hoped the Kindle DX would become the next iPhone or iPod on campuses, it failed its first test. At the University of Virginia, as many as 80% of MBA students who participated in Amazon's pilot program said they would not recommend the Kindle DX as a classroom study aid (though more than 90% liked it for pleasure reading). At Princeton and Reed, students complained they couldn't scribble notes in the margins, easily highlight passages, or fully appreciate color charts and graphics. 'The pilot programs are doing their job — getting us valuable feedback,' said Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener. Martinez notes that Reed, Seton Hall, and other colleges plan to test the iPad in the fall to see if it can do better."
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Amazon Kindle Fails First College Test

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  • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @03:51PM (#32340392)

    A fast flipping display and cheaper unit would be a better fit.Any $150 Chinese android tablet would do. The books would have to be pirated, but college kids have been doing that for ages.

    • I look forward to a long-lasting, color, touch screen device that can accurately capture fine touch (pen) for reading and note taking. The modern convertible laptops fit the bill except for their size. The other problem being the content limitations. But, as a graduate student, I can say that I'd love to carry around a light device like a light, android based tablet instead of 2-4 textbooks.
    • by eln ( 21727 )
      Apparently their main gripes centered around not being able to easily scribble notes in the margins. While I personally don't like writing on my textbooks, my experience buying used books tells me most students apparently do. So, if they want to be able to reach the textbook market they're going to have to come up with a way to easily write all over the pages of whatever book is being read.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by schon ( 31600 )

        I know - sell the DX with a stack of post-its! The students can write on the post-its, and stick them over the passages they want to highlight!

        Dammit - now I'm sure Amazon will patent this, and nobody else will be able to use it!

  • Holy Cow (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jlechem ( 613317 ) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @03:51PM (#32340394) Homepage Journal

    The tried and true method of doing things that is known to work outdid the new shiny?


  • Coming from a generation that has seen the birth of the internet and school instruction online. I have to say, print is dead, or close to it, if the kindle or iPad have anything to do with it. It's promising that students gave honest reviews of the kindle as a tool for instruction, the kindle offers a lot of promise as a teaching tool, with it being a test and LOTS of room for improvement, maybe with all the honest and constructive criticism amazon will make many new improvements that will help individuals
    • Essentially their criticism seem to boil down to:

      • No color. I'm not an expert in the field by any stretch, but my understanding is that "electronic paper" screens can do color, but it's cost prohibitive right now. Please correct me if I'm wrong. This is a fairly serious serious issue, that can't be easily resolved short of waiting for cost on the technology to come down.
      • No ability to "mark up" the books. No highlighting or margin notes. This is a pure software issue. The problem (it seems to me) probabl
  • sony got this right (Score:4, Interesting)

    by escay ( 923320 ) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @03:54PM (#32340422) Journal
    for scribbling margin notes, highlighting, syncing notes with PC/mac - and more, the Sony Daily Edition [] perfectly fits the bill. That device is the right size, feature list and perhaps the correct price point. Sony should be peddling that to the universities to finally gain some respectable foothold in the e-book industry.
    • by Wovel ( 964431 )

      How do you scribble notes? (I did not see anything on their site. Is it with a pen? This is one of the few cases I think a pen would be handy on a device.

      If it was slightly bigger and had a way to quickly mark up the text, it would have real promise.

    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @04:15PM (#32340726) Homepage Journal

      the Sony Daily Edition perfectly fits the bill.

      It sounds like it would be great, if anybody but Sony made it. Sorry, but after they rooted my PC there's no way I'll buy anything with a Sony logo, ESPECIALLY computer gear. A company that would put rootkits on legitimately purchased music CDs would stoop to anything.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Lumpy ( 12016 )


      Give me a 8.5" by 11" screen. Sorry but for textbooks I want a full page not something I have to scroll. Why dont these companies make one that is the size of a full printed page of text?

  • Sounds like Amazon was really trying to get some exposure/press. Of all of the feedback I've seen in TFA I would say it was "obvious". I'm sure now they have a nice good demographic targeted, complete with contact info etc, to spearhead their pre-planned campaign when they launch a device that does most of what was requested of the DX.

    Disclaimer: I own a DX
  • by Cryonix ( 1234264 ) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @03:56PM (#32340446)
    Using the Kindle, iPad, or any other electronic device is not going be wildly accepted by the college crowd. I find it hard to imagine studying without being able to mark in the book, fold pages, constantly flip through entire sections, or any of the features that make physical books great. Not to mention resale of DRM is non-existent.
    • by jadrian ( 1150317 ) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @04:28PM (#32340918)

      True, that said it could have an amazing future in academia if they just come up with something good enough. I have hundreds of papers lying around, keep reprinting stuff I can't find, have plenty of notes on some and taking them with me when traveling is a pain. Honestly I am dying to have a nice device where I can easily read my scientific papers, tag them with keywords and bibliographic info for easy searches, add notes and what not.

  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @03:56PM (#32340450) Homepage
    The fact that Amazon wants to be able to reach inside your kindle and remove things, even things you put notes in sort of destroys the value of the Kindle as an academic tool.
    • It does kind of make you wonder what happens at the end of your Term to your textbook. Are they going to have the publishers demand that they yank it?

    • by lymond01 ( 314120 ) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @04:10PM (#32340670)

      Teacher: "We'll be using History of the Modern World, Third Edition. You can verify this by viewing page 212. If it states that Eurasia has always been at war with Oceania, then you have the Third Edition. Anything else is wrong and you should click "Update E-Book" at your earliest convenience."

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Mascot ( 120795 )

      As far as I've read, it's the publishers that want this, not Amazon.

      I haven't myself done a lot of research, admittedly (cause I don't really care, if they cease to want to sell me books for my Kindle, I can always download them from other sources), but a friend of mine keeps bringing up stories about publishers pushing for things like expiration dates on ebooks.

      We've been here before, oh so many times. Cassette tapes will kill the music industry. Video tape recorders will kill the movie industry. Illegal m

  • The company last month announced software upgrades enabling Kindle users to sort books into collections and zoom in on PDF documents.

    "This is precisely the sort of dynamic, positive thinking that we so desperately need in these trying times of crisis and universal broo-ha-ha."
    Seriously, Amazon is touting these basic features as 'upgrades'. Like Apples ' want copy AND paste???'

    • by Mascot ( 120795 )

      Amazon labels them as "upgrades", because they are. The basis for comparison being the previous version of the software, no matter how gimped that was. Hell, they still don't get it. Collections? Great, I can make a Fantasy "folder", and inside that other folders for each of the authors or series. Keep it nice and tidy. Err, no. No hierarchy possible. What the? What century are they living in? It's still an upgrade though, and a much wanted one.

      Apple, on the other hand, would have done the same and held a h

  • by sh00z ( 206503 )
    That's Seton Hill [], not Seton Hall.
  • by Cornwallis ( 1188489 ) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @04:01PM (#32340518)

    The greatest "advantage" to e-readers, or whatever the hell they are being called this week, is that publishers will be able speed up the scam of planned obsolescence in the college textbook scam/game.

    Now my kid buys a $300 "required" book only to be told it has NO resale value come next semester because it is the "old edition". With Kindle, et al, that planned obsolescence can take place FASTER.

    Now get off my lawn.

    • Now my kid buys a $300 "required" book only to be told it has NO resale value come next semester because it is the "old edition". With Kindle, et al, that planned obsolescence can take place FASTER.

      Yes, but so much more conveniently...

      No longer will your kid have to stand in long lines at the college bookstore waiting to be ripped off. Now he can be ripped off in the comfort of his own dorm room.

    • by Dan Ost ( 415913 )

      The most expensive book I was forced to purchase was, perhaps $120. Most were between $50 and $80.

      Was my experience atypical?

      • If you were an engineer yes, it was atypical. If you weren't an engineer then sounds about right.

        • by Dan Ost ( 415913 )

          Really? I was a CS/EE double-major. Even the books that I bought once and used for 2 or 3 related courses were still less than $120 each.

      • yes. consider yourself lucky. With university physics, engineering and math texts, $200 wasn't uncommon.
    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @04:23PM (#32340860) Homepage Journal

      Downside: you can't resell the "book". Upside? The Pirate Bay and a netbook. Who needs a Kindle?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      Actually, it will be the opposite. No longer will textbook manufacturers have to update so quickly in order to make the books obsolete. From now on, the book is YOUR edition

      YOU will own the book meaning nobody else can have it. It will have no resale value because you paid for in on your account and nobody else will be able to use it unless they can sync a kindle/ipad/ereader on your account.

      Profs might actually like this better because books might change less, and book publishers might even give you

  • That's like asking whether a sloth can outrun a tortoise. It probably can, but what does it take to convince people that there are a lot of other, probably better, options? []
    • At that link, I'm seeing a family of heavy convertible Windows laptop/tablets of the type that haven't been selling in the last decade that Microsoft/PC vendors have been trying to promote them. At 3 times the cost of an iPad or a Kindle.

      Massive fail.

  • by walterbyrd ( 182728 ) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @04:03PM (#32340564)

    I am surprised anybody buys it. You can buy an iPad for about the same price, and the iPad does far more.

    Arguably the kindle is better for just reading - still.

    Sears has the "Aluratek LIBRE eBook Reader PRO" for $99, and has the "Ectaco jetBOOK LITE e-Book Reader" also for $99. [] []

  • The Kindle doesn't do Facebook or IM so it is not going to work well for what people are doing in class with computeresque devices. The iPad types too slow, netbooks have too small of a screen to really read on, and most laptops are too bulky and don't have a great battery life. Fix those issues and you should be set classroom use.
    • netbooks have too small of a screen to really read on

      10.1" is too small to read on? I have read an entire book on my ipod touch with 3.5" screen, and I have awful vision.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by bakawolf ( 1362361 )

        and I have awful vision.

        Perhaps there's a reason for that.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by EvanED ( 569694 )

        Depends on what you're reading. Many textbooks are formatted for paper that is not much smaller than 8 1/2 x 11. Grabbing a not atypically sized one (Dummit & Foote's Abstract Algebra) gives pages that are about 7.5x9.25 in, or about 12" in diagonal. Displaying that on a 10.1" screen gives almost a 15% reduction in magnification.

        For a more extreme example, take a typical CS conference paper. Printed on 8.5x11 paper (13.9" diagonal) in 10 or 11 pt font, two column format, reducing that to the size of 10.

  • Trial 3 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bysshe ( 1330263 ) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @04:10PM (#32340666)
    1st trial: kindle (fail)
    2nd trial: ipad (will fail)
    3rd trial: pen & paper WIN
  • Amazon ate my homework!
  • by dward90 ( 1813520 ) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @04:15PM (#32340728)
    Students aren't the only ones who find textbook prices monumentally absurd. Most of my professors no longer require a textbook. However, they are required by the University to specify a textbook, so every student who buys it before the first day of classes gets royally screwed.

    There also exist moronic profs who require you to buy the textbook, purchase a code for the online help, AND buy the study guide/homework guide, and then NEVER USE IT. I've found this in the English department more than once. These people need to be burned at the stake.
    • You missed the point. It's a university; they're not there to hold your hand. The study guide/homework guide is a study guide which you're supposed to use, on your own, following along within the context of your class discussion. Now, having said that I rarely bothered to purchase the study guide...
    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      What I learned to do after my undergrad degree with text books I had to buy but were not all that interested in was to buy the old edition online. For most purposes this seemed to work. Moronic profs can often be gotten around.

      That said, a good set of textbooks in your profession can be useful. I used many of my books to look stuff up years after I left school. Also, some textbooks are not so useless. The problem set are often worth the cost of the textbook for students who really want to learn the m

  • by kimvette ( 919543 ) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @04:21PM (#32340828) Homepage Journal

    I have the ideal solution for students, or for anyone who might want to enjoy reading a book and then sharing it with others when you're done, or if someone wanted to study a book and quickly switch back and forth between pages, highlight to your heart's content, and scribble notes between the lines or in the margins.

    There is this newfangled substance called "paper." If only books could possibly be "printed" on uniformly-cut "sheets" of this paper, and then "bound" together with glue and yarn, and perhaps be encased in a protective cardboard or lightweight wood or even plastic "covers." Then, you could turn the pages without having to fiddle with gestures or buttons, you don't need to worry about batteries, and since you OWN the book and cannot connect it online, no one can decide the book needs to be recalled and remotely delete it. Not only that, you can lend the book out to others, or even sell it when you no longer find any use or enjoyment from it. DRM would not stand in the way of exercising either Fair Use or your first sale rights.

    I know my idea seems somewhat quaint, but who knows - - it might just catch on!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I understand the sentiment. And yes, I love books. God, I love books. I have shelves and shelves of them and sometimes I consider them almost a literal (haha) barrier to stupidity. No kidding, but I think some people get scared when they see my books and fell uneasy standing amongst them. There is rarely any greater pleasure for me than to sit in my library and read.

      And yet eBooks are tempting. My love of gadgetry aside, the ability to large portions of my library with me at all times would be Nirvana. Y

  • by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @04:22PM (#32340834)
    "It seems we need to make the next Kindle large, with at least 20-50 flexible sheets of e-ink "paper", and a highlighter/pen wand that allows for easy e-ink marking. Soon we'll have the perfect format. Ten years after that, we'll lock it into a one-ebook to one-kindle setup so that we sell more kindles. Who wouldn't spend $400 per novel?"
  • by salesgeek ( 263995 ) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @04:36PM (#32341018) Homepage

    Everyone is trying to create their own iPod/iTunes like market for eBooks. It's a silly strategy that has little future because books and multimedia are very different technologies.

    * The killer application is actually publishing your book as a computer file instead of inked on dead trees, not creating a device that is only remarkable in that it is compatible with your DRM scheme.
    * Finding ways to sell your books to the largest market possible should be the goal.
    * The only thing that differentiates and the sizes of the walled garden markets is the number of devices that are compatible with their DRM schemes.
    * DRM is defective by design for most eBooks as it can be defeated a touch typist with some time on their hands. Music and movies actually require a much higher level of skill to crack.

    It's like everyone missed Apple's secret weapon with iPod: $1 songs and $2 TV Shows - and tons of free podcasts. Pricing on eBooks, aside the occasional sale at O'Reiley is nuts.

    In short, book publishers need to rethink the need for walled gardens. They add little value, given that portable devices that can read open formats have existed since the 1980s, and the current crop of slates and ePaper devices are not much different than a regular computer anyway.

    • My requirements for entry are low: An SD slot (I'm not willing to budge here), ability to read most formats I can buy, or download content in, and access to an online store where ebooks are priced according to how much I value them; 50% or less than paperbacks, since there is no physical print and distribution system involved. It's the last part that each and every publisher's ebook reader not only fails, but fails proudly at.

      • by cdrguru ( 88047 ) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @06:39PM (#32342526) Homepage

        You seem to be under the impression that 50% of the cost of a paperback book involves printing and distribution. Well, hardly.

        The cost of books is pretty much divided between the (re)seller and the publisher with a thin little sliver for the author. The publisher has the editorial and preparation costs which are pretty high, a well as the promotion and placement of the book. There is some profit there, but books aren't all that high-margin for the publisher.

        The seller tends to get a big chunk, as much as 30 percent because they have to stock the books.

        Printing? For a paperback book it is less than $1. Shipping? You put 50 books in a box and it costs $8 to ship across the country. That works out to about $0.16 a book.

        So when Amazon is selling a paperback book for $7.99 and the Kindle version is $4.99 that is a discount well below what the printing and distribution would have cost. With hardcover books at $24.99 and the Kindle version at $9.99 it is even a more significant difference. Today, I believe the publisher is eating most of this discount and Amazon is still making out very well on the books. There are a few they are making almost nothing on, but they are doing it to keep the Kindle supply chain stocked up.

        What is very interesting is the number of free books that Amazon is distributing for the Kindle. These cost them real money on a per-sale basis with both the server load and the wireless charges. But there are always 10-15 books that are free available and these aren't the public-domain ones.

  • It's kind of a shame that Microsoft scrapped the Courier. Based on the demo videos I saw, it seems like it would have been a natural fit for something like this.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Brandee07 ( 964634 )

      They didn't scrap it, they never had a project in the first place. It was just a mockup to deny apple some mindshare.

  • Never even considered it one. To me its nice way to read e-books with out the usual eyestrain from a traditional LCD. Most of all that i have read have been stories, or 'tutorial' style tech books. Flipping around would be murder.

    Oh, i never wrote in my books in school, i had a notebook for taking notes.

  • I've said this before, and I'm saying it again, eReaders really need to support PDF's and Word files a lot better than they currently do, especially if they want to get their devices into a college or have anything other than a black and white book novel read...

    It doesn't matter if it's a college text book, a role playing game manual, or any type of publication that uses complex images/tables/graphs/charts/etc you need a PDF or Office type of file (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) file and you need to view it well.

  • by Tawnos ( 1030370 ) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @05:20PM (#32341636)

    Biggest issue I foresee with ebooks is that, currently, none of them handle math symbols correctly. Imagine trying to read an economics text or calculus text without proper mathematical formatting. If you can't, check out the Nook for an example of how it looks. Fractions, even at the biggest text size, are smaller than 1/8" and almost entirely unreadable. Sigma notation looks like gobbledygook.

    Until that is fixed, I don't see any school adopting ebooks, much less a technical one.

  • by Kismet ( 13199 ) <> on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @05:34PM (#32341834) Homepage
    On large books, it takes several seconds just to turn a page.

    It can take even longer to add a highlight, plus the additional annoyance of using the little joystick for navigating. A stylus would be great if it were possible to use it with this type of display. I notice the same slowness on the Kindle for PC software (even on a fast machine), but at least I can use the mouse there.

    The Kindle is terribly unresponsive for typing notes. It can't keep up with two slow thumbs on those awful little keys and you nave to pop open the symbol screen just to get a comma because there is no key for it (among many other common symbols).

    Worst of all is the DRM. The Kindle saves each highlight to a plain text clippings file which might have been useful for study notes. About one third of the way through a very large (and expensive) ebook, I found that my clippings file was full of messages stating that I had exceeded my limit for clippings for that book. I guess they put some limit in there in order to prevent people from using highlights to extract the whole book into the clippings text file, thereby defeating DRM. What it really prevents is legitimate study. Due to this stupid technical deficiency, I should have been noting these passages by hand in a notebook. But the Kindle didn't warn me that this limitation existed, nor did it stop me when I reached it.

    The Kindle hardware is an interesting novelty and I see potential in the technology, but it is not good for serious reading or for study. It's too slow and the DRM puts me back in the age of pencil and paper anyway, so why bother? Picking up the actual book is more efficient and convenient than using the Kindle.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by indiechild ( 541156 )

      Agreed, the extreme sluggishness of the Kindle 2 user interface is the first thing I noticed when I bought mine.

  • But if Amazon also hoped the Kindle DX would become the next iPhone or iPod on campuses, it failed its first test. At the University of Virginia, as many as 80% of MBA students who participated in Amazon's pilot program said they would not recommend the Kindle DX as a classroom study aid (though more than 90 percent liked it for pleasure reading).

    Because the iPhone was recommended as a study aid? Being the "next iPhone" does not mean it has to be recommended for study. Duh.

  • by bezenek ( 958723 ) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @07:19PM (#32342918) Journal

    It is disappointing to see Amazon finding out only now that engineers will want to scribble on pages, highlight items, need color, etc.

    Amazon employs hundreds if not thousands of engineers, most if not all of which could have told senior executives this.

    Unfortunately, many companies in Silicon Valley are being run by executives who have forgotten their companies were built by engineers, and consulting with them once in a while might be useful.

    This is not meant to be flame-bait. It is from personal experience and the experiences of other engineers, e.g., Bob Colwell and the inability of Intel to acknowledge the failure of the Itanium processor line before it wasted billions of dollars and several years of engineering time (read Bob's book The Pentium Chronicles for more detail.)


  • by Cederic ( 9623 ) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @08:16PM (#32343456) Journal

    students complained they couldn't scribble notes in the margins, easily highlight passages

    Good. It's a book. Stop defacing it.

    Bloody vandals.

    Nothing worse than buying a second-hand textbook and finding out the fuckwit that owned it before you has destroyed it through inept, irrelevant and inaccurate highlighting and notes.

    And no, buying new isn't an option when you're a student with all your income going on accommodation, food and condoms.

"I have not the slightest confidence in 'spiritual manifestations.'" -- Robert G. Ingersoll