Maybe the Kindle Community Can Help Justin Get His Homework Back

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You might have heard the story. In the midst of the big “kerfluffle” over Amazon’s pulling back of the illegally distributed copies of 1984, student Justin Gawronski awoke one day to discover that all the notes he had taken on the book as he read it on his Kindle were rendered useless. Not gone, just useless, despite the news reporting that he had “lost all his notes and annotations” from sources like the New York Times.  But we Kindle folk know that’s not entirely accurate.

Education Week gets it right when it reports that “his notes remain saved on the Kindle, [but] he says they’re useless now that the text is missing.” Correct! Amazon didn’t “steal” his notes; they just removed the text to which those notes are linked. It is a novel but predictable version of the problem that all academe will have with ebooks in the very near future: how can you identify a spot in the text so that others can find it? Jason has his notes, but the connection to the text is gone. (Everyone interested in other versions of this issue, such as how we will be making scholarly citations to ebook passages in our work, should read the comments to my post Page Number vs Position on the Kindle.)

In my comment on the EdWeek article, I noted:

In fact, the file that contains his notes can be deciphered, but he would need to go back through the text and find the spots that match up with the notes. He is in better shape than if he had lost the physical book (notes and text gone), and would have suffered little harm if these locations in the book were easily found in another copy.

And then I made a suggestion:

For Jason, a little bit of elbow grease should allow him to reconstruct the assignment. I’d even vote that he be given an extension, and Jeff Bezos would probably agree.

That’s right, an extension. And then maybe some of the folks who care so passionately about the Kindle and its prospects to revolutionize reading could assist Jason in getting those quotes back on track with the text. With all the advantages of digital text at our disposal, couldn’t we crowdsource this thing, grab his “notes and marks” and figure out where they actually belong, and let Jason get about the business of turning them into a top notch assignment?

C’mon, Kindle Nation, this could be our finest hour! And I am serious about the extension.