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Researchers found that the Kindle DX is not ready to replace the use of paper or computers in a college environment

There's 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.

Graduate 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. 

Alex 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 years old. 

"We 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." 

Over a 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.  

By the 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. 

Thayer 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. 

"E-readers 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." 

Lee even mentioned the possibility of Kindle's that are made for specific disciplines. 

"You can imagine that a historian going through illuminated texts is going to have very different navigation needs than someone who is comparing algorithms," said Lee. 



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RE: Not the first -
By MrBlastman on 5/4/2011 11:37:03 AM , Rating: 2
Also, what about highlighting text? What about buying used books that are pre-highlighted? What about taking notes on the sides of the page next to the text?

About the only benefit I can see is using ctrl+f... but with an e-reader, you can't even do that.

I think for now, at least in Academia, books will continue to be par (along with their absurd pricing and revisions), computers second. I'm sure software will come around to make computers and even better replacement. It might already be there, I don't know--haven't been in college in years.


RE: Not the first -
By sviola on 5/4/2011 1:11:38 PM , Rating: 2
I thought the kindle allowed you to highlight and take notes on books.


RE: Not the first -
By SilthDraeth on 5/4/2011 2:43:22 PM , Rating: 2
I thought so too... Pretty sure I read that the kindle allows you to take notes, and then if you open the book on your pc, with your kindle app, the notes are there, and if you open it on your android phone with the kindle app, the notes are there as well.

Take notes once, open anywhere... Also, the kindle is meant to replace paper books, not internet reading, so at least the got that part right.


RE: Not the first -
By SoCalBoomer on 5/4/2011 5:19:48 PM , Rating: 2
It does, but it's awkward and nowhere near as easy and straightforward as it is with a print book, or even with Acrobat on a computer (which itself is somewhat awkward).


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