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BookGorilla.com eBook Headlines, June 9, 2011: YA Books & Censorship, Sunshine Pricing, Connelly, Kobo, Calculator, Nook, Kindle, Apple, Piracy, Textbooks, Tablets, and More

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Are You Listening, Mr. Bezos? Why a Kindle for Kids App Will Trump Academic Pilot Programs in Building a Kindle Future

By Stephen Windwalker
Originally posted February 22, 2010 – © Kindle Nation Daily 2010
Related posts:  
Wonpyo Yun, a reporter for the Daily Princetonian, has the scoop on an official Princeton University announcement of the results from the Kindle DX pilot project on which the Ivy League school partnered with Amazon last semester.
Yun’s report suggests that the New Jersey university’s report will lead with the positive by touting cost savings and the fact that use of the DX “reduced the amount of paper students printed for their respective classes by nearly 50 percent.” But it also makes clear that the Kindle DX pilot project was something less than a love fest.

(Update: here’s a link to the official announcement.) 

(Update: here’s a link to a more comprehensive report on all the Kindle pilot projects, courtesy of my friend Ned Stuckey-French, in Tuesday’s edition of Inside Higher Ed.) 

Out here in the real world, Amazon has generally been very successful in its Kindle marketing by lowering prices several times while promoting the Kindle in a rather understated manner as a dedicated or purpose-built reading device, setting up a delayed “Wow” factor when customers receive their Kindles and discover unexpected features and capacities with the occasional help of a Kindle guide or a Kindle blog. But Yun’s reporting on the comments of students and faculty at Princeton suggests that Amazon may have hurried or overplayed its hand with a $489 DX that is not quite ready for prime time as a replacement for textbooks and courseware. The complaints cited will probably come as no surprise to Kindle Nation Daily readers:

  • difficulties in annotating PDF documents
  • lack of folders or other content management features
  • lack of page numbers for citation, or to help in judging reading progress
  • tiny keyboard size, and other limitations on annotation
“It was great to have the experience of using a Kindle, but I think I’ll stick with books until they work out the kinks,” Cally Robertson ’10 told the Princetonian, and her impatience with the Kindle’s “kinks” seemed to be shared widely among students who have probably been denied very little in the gadgetry arena during their brief lives. 

 “I think [the Kindle]’s one of those pieces of technology that will seem ridiculously anachronistic five years from now,” said another student, aptly named No. 

Are you listening, Mr. Jobs?
It would not surprise me if, having been introduced by Amazon and their instructors to the Kindle, many of these Princeton students end up being perfect customers for Apple’s iPad. The iPad’s initial sticker price of $499 to $699 is not going to be a deal breaker for many of these students whose parents are paying $252,480 for four years of tuition, room, and board, even if the total four-year costs of 3G coverage, warranties, and accessories like the iPad keyboard shown above right bring that price above $2,500. That’s over five times the cost of a Kindle DX, but for now at least, you can’t write a term paper on the DX.

While Amazon has been around for 15 years, its Kindle business is still very much a start-up, and for that business Amazon faces a dizzying array of choices about how to invest its capital, its people, and its many marketplace advantages for the future. Kindle DX sales seem currently to make up only about 10 percent of overall Kindle sales, and Amazon may well decide not to engage Apple in what might become a hubris-driven battle for the highest-end convergence-devices-that-might-also-serve-as-ereaders market. 
But eschewing a market composed of the children of millionaires is not the same as eschewing a market composed of children, and that’s where Amazon’s smartest future-oriented strategic moves could soon come. I’ve been saying for months that it is time for a Kindle for Kids, and although my predictions along those lines have come to naught, the fact that I’ve been wrong about the timing doesn’t make the entire notion wrong. Whatever Amazon decides to do in the short term with regard to the DX and textbooks, I’m convinced that the company could do much more to build a long-term future for the Kindle and the Kindle Store by putting a full-court press on the possibility of creating a Kindle App for the Fisher-Price iXL Learning System (shown at right), scheduled to ship in July 2010 for $79.95 with Story Book, Game Player, Note Book, Art Studio, Music Player and Photo Album applications, an SD card slot for expanded memory, USB connectivity, PC and Mac compatibility, a software management CD enabling users to add their own songs and pictures, and onboard storage for additional software titles, songs, and pictures (and, I would assume, ebooks). Calling it a Learning System, of course, is a marketing masterstroke that guarantees heavy activity involving grandparents.
But what part of all that would a kid not love? What part of all that wouldn’t lead a fair number of Dads to try to negotiate some user time with their five-year-olds? Most parents are already familiar with the experience of taking their kids to a restaurant and secretly wishing that they too could order the crusty mac and cheese with the $3 price tag from the Kids’ Menu. 
And most manufacturers and marketers are already familiar with the way in which many kids’ eating preferences are dominated for years by the culinary themes and motifs of those same Kids’ Menus. 
For Amazon, it’s got to be obvious that getting Fisher-Price to link the iXL Learning System to a beefed-up Kids’ Korner of the Kindle Store would — far more than any academic pilot project — virtually guarantee the development of millions of little Kindle Kids and future Kindle Adults.
Hell yes, I’m serious. Or, given the subject matter and the need for this particular App to come with parental controls, “Heck yes.”
Are you listening, Mr. Bezos?

Too Cool for School? Thousands of Students Will Be Rocking the Kindle DX This September

By the time your kids (or grand kids? or you?) get to college to begin Fall 2009 classes, thousands of college and grad students all over the United States will be rocking the Kindle DX. If $489 for a Kindle Dx sounds expensive — and it does — just check out the average amount that college students have to pay for textbooks these days. It’s over $900 for hardcopy textbooks, or about $4,000 over the course of a four-year college education. You don’t have to be a math whiz to figure out that if a Kindle DX can save a student 10 to 15 per cent on textbook costs it will pay for itself.

(Editor’s Note: The Kindle DX ships next week, by June 10. In fact, if you click here to order a Kindle DX and select 1-day shipping (just $3.99 with an Amazon Prime account), you should have your Kindle DX by Wednesday or Thursday, June 10 or 11. If you want to take it one step further and qualify for a new Amazon Prime account without having to fork over the $79 annual Amazon Prime fee, just click here for a free one-month Amazon prime trial!)

Amazon has been getting its ducks in a row to make the Kindle DX the must-have gadget for college students all over the country by lining up the major textbook manufacturers that publish over 60% of American textbooks to publish Kindle editions and by creating special Kindle pilot projects and Kindle DX review programs — some of them involving free Kindle DX units and free textbooks for a small number of students! — on several college campuses:

With complex images, tables, charts, graphs, and equations, textbooks look best on a large display [said Amazon in a May 6 press release]. Leading textbook publishers Cengage Learning, Pearson, and Wiley, together representing more than 60 percent of the U.S. higher education textbook market, will begin offering textbooks through the Kindle Store beginning this summer. Textbooks under the following brands will be available: Addison-Wesley, Allyn & Bacon, Benjamin Cummings, Longman & Prentice Hall (Pearson); Wadsworth, Brooks/Cole, Course Technology, Delmar, Heinle, Schirmer, South-Western (Cengage); and Wiley Higher Education.

Arizona State University, Case Western Reserve University, Princeton University, Reed College, and Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia will launch trial programs to make Kindle DX devices available to students this fall. The schools will distribute hundreds of Kindle DX devices to students spread across a broad range of academic disciplines. In addition to reading on a considerably larger screen, students will be able to take advantage of popular Kindle features such as the ability to take notes and highlight, search across their library, look up words in a built-in dictionary, and carry all of their books in a lightweight device.

“The Kindle DX holds enormous potential to influence the way students learn,” said Barbara R. Snyder, president of Case Western Reserve University. “We look forward to seeing how the device affects the participation of both students and faculty in the educational experience.”

Kindle Nation Daily will be closely tuned in to this major campus roll-out of the Kindle DX and we’ll be sharing a wide range of helpful information here each week to assist the student set in getting the most out of their new Kindles at the least expense, including

  • getting the right textbooks and instructors’ PDF course packets
  • sharing, reading, and listening to lectures, lecture notes, and other course content among multiple Kindles and kindling students
  • synching up and reading Kindle content between your Kindle Dx and your iPhone or iPod Touch
  • making use of the Kindle’s powerful search, annotation, highlighting, clipping, and bookmarking features; and
  • discovering how easy it is to use the Kindle DX (or Kindle 1 or 2) in a pinch for email, texting, tweeting, Facebook status checks, checking your favorite team’s in-game progress, or web browsing

If you or someone you know has already purchased a Kindle DX (or is considering doing so) you’ll want to get ahead of the curve by checking this spot for the soon-to-be-released user’s guide, The Amazon Kindle DX – Too Cool for School: How to Get the Most out of Your Kindle DX In College, Graduate School, and Life.

Kindle Nation Archives: May 2009

  • Kindle Nation – The Free Weekly eMail Newsletter – I:15, 5.12.2009
  • Click Here To Make A Secure, Easy Donation To Kindle Nation – Launch-Day Pre-Orders Indicate Kindle DX Success – Amazon Streamlines the Kindle-for-iPhone Experience – Kindle Nation to Amazon: Allow a Hassle-Free Return Credit for Kindle 2 Owners – Great Deals on Books and Other Kindle Store Content – Lawyers in Love with Their Kindles?

  • Kindle Nation Extra: Read All About the Brand New Kindle DX – The Free Weekly Email Newsletter – I:14A, 5.6.2009
  • Wireless Reading Just Got Bigger: Pre-Order the 9.7″ Kindle DX Now for $489 – Kindle DX Will “Revolutionize Learning” – Can the Kindle DX Save the Newspaper Industry? – Technical Details on the Kindle DX – 354,000 Kindle 2s in Q1 2009; 1.2 Million Kindles to Date?

  • Kindle Nation – The Free Weekly Email Newsletter – I:14, 5.5.2009
  • Changes Afoot: Charges for Personal Documents – Amazon Sets Press Conference for Wednesday, May 6 to Announce Kindle DX – Extra! Extra! Read All the Brand New Kindle DX! – From the Kindle Nation Mailbag: Help Finding a File After Transferring It to Your Kindle with Mobipocket – Great Deals on Books and Other Kindle Store Content – 354,000 Kindle 2s in Q1 2009; 1.2 Million Kindles to Date? – Tips for Kindle Authors and Publishers – From the Kindle Nation Mailbag: Paolo Weighs in with “10 Reasons Why I Wish I Didn’t Buy a Kindle 2”

  • Special Bulletin: New Personal Document Charges Begin Monday May 4 Kindle Nation – The Free Weekly Email Newsletter – I:13A, 5.1.2009
  • Blue Monday: Amazon Begins Charging For Converting and Sending Personal Documents to Your Kindle – Speaking of Blue: Tune in to The Kindle Chronicles Podcast Tonight for Blueberry Pancakes With Windwalker and Len Edgerly
  • Useful new features in the Kindle 1.2 firmware upgrade

    With the Kindle 2.0 Jazzed Level at Code Red, it would have been easy to miss important features that are included in the version 1.2 firmware upgrade that Amazon has been zapping in waves to the 713,451 Kindles* that are currently in the field.

    So the sometimes helpful Amazon Kindle Team posted this announcement on the Kindle’s own Amazon discussion forum:

    A new software update for Kindle has rolled out. This update (version 1.2) adds the following features:

    – Zoom any image in Kindle books or periodicals by selecting the image using the scroll wheel.
    – Individual items and groups of items can be deleted directly from the Home screen. Simply scroll to the item you wish to delete and push the backspace key.
    – Improved character and font support including Greek characters and monospace fonts.

    To make this process as effective as possible for all of our customers, not all devices will be sent the update at the same time. When the software update is available and your Kindle is connected wirelessly to Whispernet, the update will download to your Kindle automatically. Then, the next time Kindle is in sleep mode, it will take advantage of the idle time and apply the update.

    The zoom feature will be important for all of us who have been frustrated by the Kindle’s previous inability to show us useful graphics of art, maps, diagrams, tables, etc. Obviously, this feature will greatly enhance the Kindle publishing platform’s appeal for publishers of academic texts, other textbooks, and travel guides, among others.

    The upgrade that allows us to clean up our personal Kindle library by deleting titles directly from the home screen is an important convenience, but like many of the features missing from the Kindle 1.0, it deserved to be more remarked “in the breach than in the observance.”

    Then there is the Greek alphabet thing. H’mm. Maybe it’s a signal that the first destination for a global Kindle roll-out will be among American ex-pats on the island of Crete. Or not. Maybe it’s all about academic texts. Maybe it ties back to Jeff Bezos’ original launch day statement that the Kindle would eventually be able to access “every book ever printed” and illuminates a commitment to go all the way back to those pre-Gutenberg texts that Caesar used as Kindling 2057 years ago. In any case, I’m yet to be convinced that this one will change my life.
    * I arrived at this scientific quantification of the Kindle’s installed base by drawing from two sources: the time showing on my Kindle as I began typing, and the temperature at which paper becomes spontaneously combustible. And no, you can’t check my work.