no doubt that the Amazon Kindle has revolutionized the way many people read
books, magazines, and their morning newspaper. E-readers like the Kindle have
brought all types of reading material to the user’s fingertips, and now, a
college study has confirmed exactly how the Kindle DX in particular has played
a role in graduate classes.
The Kindle DX is a
larger version of the standard Kindle. It was announced in May 2009, and
features a bigger screen with simple PDF support. It is the thinnest Kindle to
date, and has an accelerometer which allows the rotation of pages between
landscape and portrait orientations.
students at the University of Washington participated in a pilot study of the
Kindle DX last year where students utilized the e-reader for academic reading
instead of textbooks. This is the first long-term study to research the use of e-readers in
an educational environment.
Thayer, study leader and a doctoral student in Human Centered Design and
Engineering at the University of Washington, and Charlotte Lee, co-author and
an assistant professor of Human Centered Design and Engineering at the
University of Washington, interviewed 39 first-year graduate students in the
University of Washington's Department of Computer Science & Engineering.
Thirty-two of the subjects were men and seven were women, all ages 21 to 53
were not trying to evaluate the device, per se, but wanted to think long term,
really looking to the future of e-readers, what are students trying to do, how
can we support that," said Lee. "Most e-readers were designed
for leisure reading - think romance novels on the beach. We found that reading
is just a small part of what students are doing. And when we realize how
dynamic and complicated a process this is, it kind of redefines what it means
to design an e-reader."
nine-month period beginning in the fall, Thayer and Lee found that students did
most of their reading in fixed locations such as their homes (47 percent),
school (25 percent), and coffee shops or offices (11 percent). They also found
that the Kindle DX was more likely to replace paper-based reading rather than
reading that was done on the internet.
spring semester in 2010, less than 40 percent of the students had quit using
the Kindle DX for reading due to issues like its lack of support for
note-taking and problems with looking up references, which was easier to do on
the computer. In addition, the Kindle DX had negatively affected a study
technique called cognitive mapping, which helps readers use physical cues they
have seen on the pages to remember where to find a specific section of text.
Also, 75 percent of students used paper to take notes as they read.
and Lee found that computers are still probably an easier option for students
to use while studying, but believe software updates for
the Kindle may change that in the future.
are not where they need to be in order to support academic reading," said
Lee. But added that updates to address these issues are on the way. "It's
going to be sooner than we think."
mentioned the possibility of Kindle's that are made for specific
can imagine that a historian going through illuminated texts is going to have
very different navigation needs than someone who is comparing algorithms,"