The Kindle’s assault on academia
Column: Amazon wants to corner the textbook market. But don't think it's gonna be easy.
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Now, imagine for a moment that you’re the parent of a college student. You’ve already shelled out $600 for a laptop and maybe an extra $200 for an iPhone. Are you really going to hand over another $489 for a Kindle?Skip to next paragraph
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That’s the problem Kindle faces. But it has to be said that Bezos is approaching it intelligently. Remember, people make the same “it’s too expensive” comments about pretty much every Apple product. The company went gangbusters into the education market and got a generation hooked on Macs and iPods. The rest is, well, the story of Steve Jobs’ bank account.
The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that some students “will be given large-screen Kindles with textbooks for chemistry, computer science, and a freshman seminar already installed, said Lev Gonick, the school's chief information officer.” The school will then compare the experiences of these Kindle students with those using traditional textbooks.
Even if the Kindle carries the day against textbooks, it still might not win the market. Competitors are already planning their own assaults on the ivy-covered walls of academia. Hearst, publisher of several newspapers, is working with a start-up that’s developing an e-reader. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. looks like it will invest in a Kindle competitor. Electronics display company Plastic Logic is also in the running.
Meanwhile, many think that the 800-pound gorilla of the mobile-device business, Apple, will have an Internet-ready e-reading device this summer.
Getting its foot in the door first is a good move by Amazon. But in the end, it will come to down price and convenience. And to be blunt about it, $489 is too much to pay for a Kindle, even if it means toting around fewer textbooks. I might one day buy my kids Kindles instead of printed textbooks, if the price is right. Right now it’s not. Let’s see what Amazon does about that before we give it an A in the education field.