Monday, June 30, 2008

Kindle as E-Textbook Reader?

In the same way that campuses have gravitated to the proprietary iPod system for podcasting academic content, there is a move to embrace Amazon's Kindle as an e-textbook platform.

As reported by the Christian Science Monitor, Princeton University Press will publish e-books in the proprietary Kindle format (joining the Oxford, Yale and University of California Presses). Inside Higher Ed reports that publishers are not revealing the financial arrangements behind this (which reportedly involves revenue sharing).

It's also interesting to note that the ebook versions are only slightly less expensive than printed paperbacks, but the real (and probably compelling difference) is that printed books often take two to four weeks to ship, while ebooks are downloadable immediately. I can see this as driving students into ebooks in a big way. There's still the $359 price of the Kindle-- it would take saving a few bucks each on an epic quantity of textbooks to pay for the reader.

There's also that proprietary format that locks students into Amazon's world. The money can be tempting, and the convenience of relying on others to make tough decisions for us can be seductive, but I don't think our interests are identical with these large corporations who view our students as customers. We would do better to promote a non-proprietary format which will not threaten to strand our students at the flip of a marketing plan.

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