Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Kindle at the Heart of the University

Here is an interesting article on the Kindle from an academic point of view. The fundamental issue the author highlights is that the Kindle is not designed for readers who require more than a casual interaction with texts. Such readers need to annotate, work with paratextual matter, and preserve long-term access to their personally augmented texts. The risk is that Kindles may alienate readers from their personal libraries “rather than empowering them to immerse themselves in them.”

The author concludes:
A key to making [e-book readers] attractive is developing an ecosystem of scholarly information sources around them: larger libraries of scholarly books, reasonably priced, and with a firm title to ownership. Better connections between the content repositories such as journal websites and our handheld readers, more ways to make annotations and display information. Compatibility of files across readers (something that could be facilitated by adopting Open Access standards) and ways to share marked up documents with our colleagues.
Should we turn to corporations such as Amazon to develop this system, or should we look toward a comparable system that already exists—the academic library? For some initial ideas about  this, see: “As the Book Changes Form, the Library Must Champion Its Own Power Base—Readers.”

For other views of the Kindle, see “School Chooses Kindle; Are Libraries for the History 'Books'?”:

Asher Chase, 16, a junior, says anyone who thinks digital books are the future should read a digital book. He remembers his English class last year being assigned Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol on their laptops.

Taking notes on the text? Forget it. "It was terrible: 'Shade, file, edit, highlight.' We were like, 'Wow, reading books on computers is awful.'"