The Kindle’s assault on academia
Column: Amazon wants to corner the textbook market. But don't think it's gonna be easy.
Textbooks. The bane of a college student’s existence. Not only are they so expensive that one wonders why they aren’t printed in gold leaf, but the darn suckers weigh a ton. (This actually starts in earlier grades -- there are days when my kids’ middle school backpacks feel like they’ve stuffed an elephant or something in there.)Skip to next paragraph
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Well, Amazon.com wants to offer a souped-up version of its Kindle e-book reader as a solution.
The DX will have a larger screen -- 9.7 inches as opposed to the 6 inches of the current model (the better to see charts and graphs with, my dear) and “a long-requested built-in PDF reader, and the ability to add annotations in addition to notes and highlights,” reports Engadget.
The device will sell for $489, as opposed to the $359 for the regular Kindle.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out why Amazon wants to move in this direction. Student textbooks sales amount to $5.4 billion a year. Moving away from crushed ink on dead trees will help cut the costs of the tomes (by about a third, according to some experts) but we’re still talking about a large piece of a several billion dollar yearly market here.
Amazon also believes that the Kindle will encourage people to subscribe to newspapers in a digital form. The New York Times, Boston Globe [I’m alive! I’m alive!] and The Washington Post will offer the DX at a reduced price to readers where home delivery of those newspapers is not available.
I like the Kindle. But to quote Goliath the dog from an old TV show that I watched as a kid, “I don’t know, Davey.”
There has not exactly been an iPhone- or iPod-like frenzy over the Kindle since its inception. The reading device has sold well, but it’s not going to set any records. Its $359 price tag is a bit much for a device that basically does one thing. (For instance, my iPhone, which my wife got me for Christmas, cost $199. I use it to listen to Red Sox games, to my music, surf the web, as a news device, a game console, watch YouTube videos -- I can even access Kindle books on the iPhone.)