Kindle not all that great as a Digital Textbook

The Financial Times had an article yesterday on the Kindle textbook pilot projects. I already knew most of the details just from my personal experiences, but it’s good to have confirmation from another source.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

The University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business was one of the first to issue a Kindle DX – the larger display version of the ereader – to a selection of new MBA students.

Darden is the second-biggest publisher of business case studies and teaching notes after Harvard, so it was interested as a publisher, and as an educator, in whether e-books could be a useful format for students.

But that meant converting many documents into Amazon’s format because simply putting them on to a Kindle in standard PDF format would in many cases render them unreadable; fonts can be too small and the text can’t be highlighted or enlarged.

Once the texts were on the device, sorting through dozens of cases was a challenge, because documents can only be sorted by author, title or most recently used, with no scope for categories or other file structures.

The Kindle’s monochrome screen is not ideal for viewing charts or illustrations and the lack of touchscreen means highlighting or annotating data in tables or spreadsheets is cumbersome, Mr Koenig says.

Note-taking was also a problem, because of the small inbuilt keyboard. Up to half of a Darden MBA’s grade is based on performance in the classroom, requiring heavy preparation.

“If the technology you use to organise your thoughts slows you down compared with taking notes by hand or on a computer, we told [students] to put it aside,” says Mr Koenig.

Most did just that. Of the 63 students randomly selected for the trial, 10 to 15 per cent remain “heavy users”, with a very small percentage using Kindles in the classroom. Almost three-quarters said they would not recommend the Kindle to an incoming MBA – even though the vast majority said it was a great personal reading device.

In spite of the ereader’s faults, many liked having their notes to read en route to interviews or to use its text-to-speech features to listen to cases while driving or at the gym.

“They have created a fantastic consumer device,” says Mr Koenig. “Those who have it, have a library that travels very easily.”

continued here

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. TallMomof216 March, 2010

    I’m very old school but what happened to handwritten notes? Even with paper textbooks there are still limitations to simply annotating text.

    The lack of folders or tags is definitely detrimental.

    1. Nate the great16 March, 2010

      I’m a paper+pen person, myself. I came to typing too late for me to adapt and use it in the same way.

  2. […] slow and too feature limited to work well with textbooks. Universities as diverse as Reed College, UVA, and Princeton (as well as several later pilots like the one at the University of Washington) all […]

  3. […] the 2009-2010 school year. Those results matched the results of virtually every Kindle DX pilot program. The KDX doesn't work as a digital […]


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