David Pogue, the uber-tech-reviewer for the New York Times, took a minute this week to decipher the place of the new Kindle Paperwhite in the still robust market for E-Ink-based readers. On balance, I think he got it right. The Paperwhite addresses a concern long held by a certain segment of e-book aficionados: how to read in bed next to a sleeping spouse without turning a light on. (And apparently this segment is a large one.) With the Paperwhite, it is game on (and lights out)!
So, why won’t this new device resonate with educators? As has been the case throughout the history of the Kindle, improvements to the device have been made with one audience in mind: the retail consumer. And often, improvements that serve the consumer do not serve the purposes of education, as we have documented regularly in this space.
The Paperwhite is no exception. Backlighting and more pristine contrast are not features that have much relevance to school. But there are several shortcomings in the Paperwhite that are extremely relevant to educators:
- No removable storage – You may have forgotten that the original Kindle had a slot for an SD card. For a school, the ability to load SD cards with books and then insert them into whatever Kindle device is handy is a useful feature. That way the inventory of books can be separated from the inventory of devices. The average consumer doesn’t need this, but a school librarian juggling and deploying resources does.
- No charger included – A wall charger for the Paperwhite costs $10. Most schools will need one of these. Per device.
- Advertisements – Ads appear on the standard Paperwhite, which are meant to induce buying behaviors that most educators fret about when the Kindle is in the student’s hands. Yes, they are unobtrusive and do not really interfere with the screen while reading, but there is a strong precedent that educational materials not contain advertisements. Anyone remember Chris Whittle and Channel One? If you want to remove them, that’ll be $20.
I used to make the case that the Kindle 1 was the best Kindle for education. The Paperwhite doesn’t really change that opinion.
How does the competition stack up on these items? The Nook Simple Touch e-ink e-reader:
- Has a slot for removable storage
- Includes a wall charger with the unit
- Does not display advertisements