Why Kindle 2 Isn’t Good for Education

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Kindle 2 KeyboardOK, ket’s be fair. Amazon created the Kindle as a consumer device for reading books, novels primarily, with a little assistance on the side for newspapers, magazines, and blogs. As a business system, the device actualized the ebook value chain for the biggest etailer of books on the planet. It only makes sense.

It also makes sense that Amazon struggles with how to protect that value chain. The problems are obvious and much-commented: there’s DRM (to ensure control of the content), there’s the exclusivity of the system and the device (to ensure control of the channel), there’s the limited capability (to ensure the Kindle doesn’t serve a lot of purposes that Amazon doesn’t have in mind or become, gasp, an “open” device).

But despite these limitations, some of us took one look and saw the potential for this device to actualize another value chain, the delivery of educational materials to students. It isn’t what Amazon intended, and the Kindle 2 demonstrates that Amazon is actually veering away from supporting educational uses.

(But what about the BIG Kindle, you ask? More on that at another time. The announcement last week shows primarily Amazon’s canny awareness that this marketplace is about to get away from them, and that being first to market with a big reader, even if that reader isn’t ready for the market yet, is the only card they have left to play.)

So, what is it about the Kindle 2 that should be discouraging to educators?

1. This device actually moves away from encouraging user input. How? Look at the keyboard. I tried to type a little bit with those tiny pimples and found the process MORE difficult than with the little chicklets on the Kindle 1. Their layout seems to support the sleek design of the device rather than the user’s need to type quickly. For a consumer reading novels, not a biggie. For a student of teacher attempting to annotate a text, just a little more difficult than with the Kindle 1 keyboard. My guess is that these vestigial bumps will disappear when the Kindle acquires its MUST HAVE touchscreen for user input.

Next: Why Fewer Buttons On the Outside of the KIndle is Bad News for Educators