Kindle is the new backpack

There are several rumors bouncing around the web that Amazon is putting the final touches on a new model of its Kindle ebook reader. The target audience: students.

Just as college kids played a huge role in the success of the iPod – and many iDerivatives – Amazon is banking on them ditching hardcovers and adopting E Ink textbooks. At least that’s what the “confirmed” reports say.

The new line of Kindle “is significantly thinner, has a better screen, is more stylish, and includes fixes to some of the user interface annoyance with the first version,” says Business Week’s Peter Burrows. He compared this college-bound Kindle to Apple’s purse-friendly iPod Mini – take the bulky original and shave it down to something a teen-age girl would proudly bear.

The rumors differ over whether the new model is due out in September or October. (Either way, Amazon would seem to miss the back-to-school shopping sprees.) They also don’t get into whether the redesigned gadget will be marketed as a way to read Stephenie Meyer or science homework.

Horizons has talked a lot about etextbooks before (here and here), but this product news arrived the same day I learned about CourseSmart. The website was "founded and supported by five higher education textbook publishers" and now boasts that it offers one third of the all textbooks expected to sell more than 200 copies. Not a bad statistic. And CourseSmart lets you login to your library from any computer.

Both forms of e-textbook (on your PC or on your Kindle) offer similar savings over the paper editions. CourseSmart claims students will save 50 percent on their digital copies. Both are searchable – something I wish I had in college. But, of course, neither kind of e-textbook can be returned to the store for cash when the class is over. CourseSmart argues that most students are disappointed with the payback on returns anyway.

Since many college students already have laptops, I’m not sure I’d bother buying a $350 Kindle to do what CourseSmart and my portable PC can already do. But, if Amazon whips up marketing like Apple does, a Kindle could peek out of every purse on campus by Spring semester.

Also check out:
Back-to-school laptop report card
From the Monitor's book blog: Expensive college textbooks

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