The Kindle is an e-book reader made and sold by Amazon.com. E-readers have become very popular alternatives to traditional books and magazines. The Kindle has been the device of choice for many schools and libraries exploring the potential of e-readers in an educational setting.
Since launching the first Kindle in 2007, Amazon.com has revised the device several times and dropped the original price of $399 to $124 (as of June 22, 2011) for a Kindle with Special Offers. There is some speculation that the Kindle may someday be offered for free with Amazon instead making its money by selling e-books and subscriptions.
Although some market analysts suggest that tablet sales will ultimately outpace those of e-readers, general consensus is that the Kindle has a stable market presence and is not going away any time soon. In July 2010, e-book sales on Amazon.com surpassed hard cover book sales and in January 2011 they surpassed paperback book sales.
Specifications and Features
Amazon touts many Kindle features that appeal to an educational setting. They include:
- Ability to read in bright sunlight: This is helpful for educational experiences that may occur outside of the traditional classroom.
- Small, portable design with a 6" reading area: The elimination of heavy text books from student backpacks has often been cited as a compelling reason to move towards e-readers such as the Kindle.
- Battery life of up to 2 months (with wireless turned off): This makes logistics simpler by greatly reducing the amount of effort it takes to keep the device working.
- Built in WiFi: Provides access to books anytime, anywhere.
- PDF reader: Provides educators an opportunity to share content with students in an easy to access format.
- Simple user interface: Students and teachers can begin using the devices with very little training.
- Text to speech that reads aloud: Allows for low-vision students to access content.
- Kindle Library Lending - coming soon in 2011. This is the ability to borrow a book from a local library and read it on your Kindle. This will greatly reduce the expense of purchasing e-books.
- Low e-book prices: Traditional books are very expensive and textbooks are particularly expensive. Ebooks could save educators and students a significant amount.
- Over 1.8 million out of copyright books available for free: Again offering a way to save money while providing educational content.
- Built in Dictionary: Gives readers the ability to look up the dictionary definition of any word without having to go to another resource
There are many different ways Kindles can be inserted into the educational experience. Two of the more common examples are a one-to-one Kindle program and a library pool of Kindles. No matter the specific implementation environment, having a well-thought out plan for implementation and management is key to having a successful Kindle program.
Prior to the actual distribution of Kindles, the following steps should be taken:
- Create an Acceptable Use Policy
- Determine who will be responsible for the Kindle program and who will manage the devices
- Determine how you will keep track of the Kindles and their content
- Determine how long a Kindle can be out on loan
- Determine how you will collect Kindles
- Determine how you will recharge the Kindles
- Determine how new e-books will be requested/purchased
Once the management plan has been established, bringing Kindles into an educational setting include the following steps:
- Obtain approval for Kindle program
- Ordering the Kindles from Amazon
- Receiving the Order
- Unpacking, labeling, and inventorying
- Loading e-books
- Packaging the Kindles for distribution
- Communicate policies and procedures
- Distribution to students & faculty
The Kindle is capable of connecting to WiFi networks and some Kindles are also capable of connecting to a 3G network. One of these needs to be available for the Kindle to download e-books from Amazon. If Kindles will be populated with content in a school environment, CIPA (Children's Internet Protection Act) must be considered. A school must have a filter in place on their network and there must be an acceptable use policy in place.
Maintenance, Repair, Updates/Upgrades
Amazon offers an extensive support website that is designed to assist Kindle users in managing their device. Here, users can find support forums, user guides, video tutorials, software updates, and a FAQ section.
The Kindle itself is not a difficult device to master. There are few buttons and menus which make is easy for most people to get started quickly. However, if a person has never used an e-reader or Kindle before, there is a slight learning curve that must be addressed.
Staff, such as teachers and librarians should be given a Kindle before a student program is launched. They should be encouraged to integrate the Kindle into their own daily academic and casual reading and Internet use. This will enable the educators to become familiar with the device and therefore be a guiding resource for students as they explore the new device. Staff members should be encouraged to tailor their lessons/assignments/learning journeys so that students can take advantage of the technology the Kindle offers. It might be useful for teachers to have workshops where collectively they discuss how to use the Kindle to extend the educational experiences they are trying to provide for their students.
Students will probably need less instruction on how to navigate the Kindle. The Kindle will probably be just one of many electronic devices the student has been exposed to and he/she will therefore probably acclimate quickly. Where the student may need more guidance is in how to utilize the Kindle as a learning device beyond just reading. Here is where a well informed and practiced educator can be of great service by guiding the student's interactive Kindle experience.
Potential for Schools
- Access to a very wide variety of e-books and other electronic educational material
- Ability to provide the student a private way to read books of their choice thus encouraging students to read more
- Today's digital natives are more apt to enjoy and be drawn to a new technology experience thus encouraging reading and learning
- Easy, inexpensive Internet access for all students at home and at school so students can learn anywhere anytime
- Reduction in cost per student to provide educational materials
- Promoting a healthier environment as students are not required to carry many heavy textbooks
One of the most significant considerations regarding the Kindle, or any e-reader for that matter, is the American Disabilities Act (ADA). All versions of the Kindle currently offer a text-to-speech (TTS) feature but only the most recent version of the Kindle, the Kindle 3, has a feature called Voice Guide that allows a visually impaired person to turn the TTS feature on and navigate the menus without the help of a sighted person. In January 2011, the Justice Department announced an agreement with several universities where the universities "will not purchase, recommend or promote use of the Kindle DX, or any other dedicated electronic book reader, unless the devices are fully accessible to students who are blind and have low vision. The universities agree that if they use dedicated electronic book readers, they will ensure that students with vision disabilities are able to access and acquire the same materials and information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as sighted students with substantially equivalent ease of use. "
On May 26, 2011, the Department of Justice published a FAQ document regarding the January 2011 agreement. This FAQ is a very helpful document for educators who are trying to negotiate a strategy for the implementation of an e-reader program. The basic principle is that an equal educational opportunity must be provided to all students. Since Kindles do not have menus or controls that are ADA compliant for visually impaired users, alternative resources that replicate the educational experience must be provided. One example given describes a library that loans Kindles to students for a reading program. Since some version of the Kindle's controls and menus are not accessible to visually impaired users, a tablet computer that provides the all of the same e-books with text-to-speech functionality and accessible menus would be a suitable accommodation for visually impaired users.
In February 2011, Colorado State University published a report that evaluated several electronic readers for their level of accessibility for various disabilities. The Kindle 3 was noted as being good for visually impaired users due to its TTS, Voice Guide, adjustable font sizes, and adjustable contrast settings. It does suggest that accessibility could be improved with the addition of bumps on the devices buttons, audio indicators of battery life, time function, and wireless connection status. The report also discusses the accessibility of various electronic readers for users with other physical and learning disabilities.
- 2009 – Amazon's Kindle DX pilot program for universities: In 2009, Amazon partnered with six universities to pilot the Kindle DX in a higher educational setting. Ultimately, this pilot was considered a failure due to the device's inability to comply with ADA standards.
- 2010 – The Unquiet Library - Creekview High School (GA): In the fall of 2010, the CHS library implemented a Kindle reading program for its students and faculty. By the end of the 2010-2011 school year, the library was circulating six Kindles for one week loan periods. In order to encourage reading and discourage unauthorized e-book purchases, the library utilizes an e-book request process where the reader can request up to ten books for the school to purchase and load on the Kindle. The project is extensively documented by the school librarian, Buffy Hamilton, on their website. Here, The Unquiet Library also makes available sample forms and policy documents for other educators considering implementing their own Kindle program.
- 2010 – Clearwater High School (FL)': In the fall of 2010, Clearwater High School became the first school in the world to distribute Kindles to all of its students. Using the Kindle, the students are able to access their textbooks, grades, the internet, and Moodle. If a student does not want to use a Kindle, the school provides the same materials in an alternate form. Students are given the option to buy insurance for $20.00 to protect against damage, loss, or theft. The school reports that students have a higher level of motivation to do work, have performed better, and have noted the benefits of carrying the majority of their educational material on one small lightweight device.
Links to Resources
- ALA Learning
- The Unquiet Library - Creekview High School (GA)
- Clearwater High School Kindle Program
- Amazon's Kindle Education page
- Arrington, M. (2010, February 102). Amazon Wants To Give A Free Kindle To All Amazon Prime Subscribers. TechCrunch.
- Kolakowski, N. (2011, June 20). Tablets Outpacing E-Readers by 2012: In-Stat. eWeek Mobile. Retrieved from http://mobile.eweek.com/c/a/Desktops-and-Notebooks/Tablets-Outpacing-EReaders-by-2012-InStat-704008/
- Macheske, D. (2011, May 26). Ebook Viewers – Amazon Kindles Are Here to Stay. KindleZon. Retrieved from http://www.kindle-zon.com/ebook-viewers-amazon-kindles-are-here-to-stay/
- Kincaid, J. (2011, May 19). That Was Fast: Amazon’s Kindle Ebook Sales Surpass Print (It Only Took Four Years). TechCrunch.
- Amazon.com. (2011, June 30). Kindle, Wi-Fi, Graphite, 6" Display with New E Ink Pearl Technology - includes Special Offers & Sponsored Screensavers. Amazon.com. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004HFS6Z0/ref=s9_pindo_gw_h_default_3?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-1&pf_rd_r=1302826D26S3ZKK8J22H&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1305982122&pf_rd_i=507846
- United States Department if Justice. (2010, January 13). Justice Department Reaches Three Settlements Under the Americans with Disabilities Act Regarding the Use of Electronic Book Readers. Retrieved from http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2010/January/10-crt-030.html
- United States Department of Education. Office of the Assistant Secretary. (2011, May 26). Questions About the June 29, 2010, Dear Colleague Letter. Retrieved from http://www2.ed.gov/print/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/dcl-ebook-faq-201105.html
- Colorado State University. (2011, February 7). Accessibility of eBook Readers. Retrieved from http://lib.colostate.edu/publicwiki/images/4/42/2011-02-07_FINAL_Report_--_Accessiblity_of_eBook_Readers.pdf
- MacMillan, D. (2009, May 4). Amazon's Kindle is Off to College: Six universities are partnering with Amazon and major publishers to supply students with Kindles this fall. Will campus crack open the e-book market?. Bloomberg Business Week. Retrieved from http://www.businessweek.com/print/technology/content/may2009/tc2009054_280910.htm
- Conneally, T. (2009, November 11). Universities reject Kindle DX as a Textbook Replacement. BetaNews. Retrieved from http://www.betanews.com/article/Universities-reject-Kindle-DX-as-a-textbook-replacement/1257968058
- Hamilton, B. (2011, May 10). Kindles at The Unquiet Library. Creekview High School. Retrieved from http://www.theunquietlibrary.libguides.com/kindles
- Barack, L. (2011, March 1). The Kindles Are Coming: Ereaders and tablets are springing up in schools—and librarians are leading the way. School Librarian Journal. Retrieved from http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/slj/home/889110-312/the_kindles__are_coming.html.csp
- Clearwater High School. Clearwater High School Kindle Project. Retrieved from http://www.clearwater-hs.pinellas.k12.fl.us/principals_page.htm/Principals_Page/CHS_Kindle_Project.html
- Prest, N. (2011, February 11). Clearwater High Sees Success with Kindles. my Fox Tampa Bay. Retrieved from http://www.myfoxtampabay.com/dpp/news/education/clearwater-high-sees-success-with-kindles-02012011
- Sebastiano, A. (2011, March 2). Clearwater High Students Give Kindles High Marks. TBNWeekly.com. Retrieved from http://www.tbnweekly.com/pinellas_county_schools/content_articles/030211_sch-01.txt