SpoonFed: Why Students Will Diss the Kindle

mark_spoonfed1Soon after the $489 price of the Kindle DX was announced, Amazon’s big-screen follow-up to the Kindle 2, I scoured Twitter for early reactions. The consensus: the device is just too expensive for students. For me, though, the high price is only one reason why most students will likely ignore the DX.

There’s no question that the Kindle has been a commercial success thus far. As of the middle of last month, 300,000 Version 2 Kindles had already been sold, double the rate of Amazon’s first e-reader. And a shocking 35 percent of books sold that have a Kindle edition are sold in that format.

Those are some pretty impressive figures, but I don’t see the younger crowd toting around the DX. For these reasons.

At least up until now, Kindle owners have skewed older. In fact, according to a tabulation of responses on Amazon’s own site, 70 percent of Kindle owners are over age 40 and more than half over 50.

To court students, Amazon has wrapped up deals with such leading textbook publishers as Cengage Learning, Pearson, and Wiley, accounting for 60 percent of the U.S. higher education market. And six colleges will launch trial programs to make the DX available to students this fall. The DX itself is also more student-friendly with its larger 9.7-inch electronic paper display (no zooming or scrolling), the ability to type notes and highlight text, and a built-in dictionary to look up words.

All of these ingredients help, but I don’t see students ditching traditional textbooks for a DX anytime soon. First, students buy used books to save money, and they make money when selling books back to the school. Second, the lack of color is a big deal, especially for scientific illustrations. Third, you can’t literally write in the margins, as you can with the upcoming Plastic Logic device.

It’s also hard to ignore that textbook publishers are already targeting devices students currently use: notebooks. The next generation of lightweight netbooks will sport touch-capable color displays, making them ideal e-readers. And let’s not forget Apple; there’s nothing to prevent the company from offering the Amazon application on its rumored color-screen Media Tablet (though Amazon could limit its capabilities).

As a dedicated device for reading newspapers and magazines, the DX has a future. But that’s only assuming the price for the hardware comes down as you commit to more monthly subscriptions. For students, however, the Kindle makes more sense as an app, not hardware.

Editor-in-chief Mark Spoonauer directs LAPTOP’s online and print editorial content and has been covering mobile and wireless technology for over a decade. Each week Mark’s SpoonFed column provides his insights and analysis of the biggest mobile trends and news. You can also follow him on twitter.

Mark Spoonauer
Mark Spoonauer
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
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