Mosaic / Reviews / October 24, 2012

Kindle in review

With people using e-book readers like Kindles or Nooks more than ever, book publishers now offer the option for students to download their textbooks on their tablets. Part experiment, my experience with using my Kindle Fire as a textbook for the first time has surprised me.

When deciding whether to buy a Kindle, consider that the cost of one is the equivalent of buying the single most expensive textbook you’ve probably had to buy. The new Kindle Fire costs $159, while the newest version the Kindle Fire HD costs $199. Don’t let the cost deter you, however. You can use a Kindle for more than simply reading e-books. With the Kindle Fire, you can download videos, music, photos and documents. You can also browse the Internet, use apps and games or store files.

For getting textbooks, in addition to choosing hardcover or softcover, college students are now able to buy or rent their books. For the cost of the textbook I used, it would have cost $165 new for the hardcover, but to buy the e-book version, it costs $116. I actually chose to rent the Kindle version for one trimester, costing $60, saving over $100 over a new hardcover. Even when renting the hardcover, when you’re done with your rental period, you would still need to ship it back. This step is eliminated when renting on a Kindle because it will simply disappear from your book list when the time is up.

Shipping time
With the clock ticking on getting chapters read for class, you’ll want the fastest way possible to get your textbook on time. With a hardcover, you could choose expedited delivery to save on time, but even with Amazon’s offer of free two-day shipping for college students, waiting for the delivery of a hardcover bought online is much slower than buying the e-book version. Through Amazon’s Whispernet, a wireless way to deliver Kindle content like books, documents, etc., delivery was lightning-fast — it took less than a minute for my textbook to download.

Weighing just 14.1 oz, a Kindle Fire is extremely light. The weight to ship “Public Finance” from Amazon was 2.6 pounds. Living off-campus, it’s easier to carry something that weighs less than a pound. It cuts down on the bulk I drag around in my backpack. If I don’t feel like carrying my laptop (less than 4 pounds), then I’ll simply pack my Kindle to use as my main way to browse the Internet on campus or edit documents through its touchscreen and Google Drive.

I’ve found that readability of a textbook diminishes on a 7-inch Kindle screen. Despite the feature to pinch to zoom on small text and images, the small screen size hinders being able to review pages quickly. Being able to flip through multiple pages as quickly as a printed textbook is not possible when a Kindle only shows one page at a time. If you needed to find information or topics scattered throughout a book, you have the option of searching an index on a hardcover, but you would find more detail using the search feature of the Kindle.
Depending on what you value more — cost, delivery speed, readability, tangibility, etc. — a Kindle might be the best or worse way to read a textbook. If I had to choose over again, I would still pick using a Kindle for my textbook.

Tags:  cost e-book e-book reader kindle nook Technology

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