On that point: Technology should replace printed textbooks

I never wanted to talk about it, because in talking about it I would in a way be recognizing its existence, but (begrudgingly) I have to applaud the makers of the new Kindle 2, Amazon’s e-book reader for the masses.

I never wanted to talk about it, because in talking about it I would in a way be recognizing its existence, but (begrudgingly) I have to applaud the makers of the new Kindle 2, Amazon’s e-book reader for the masses.

While ideologically I am opposed to any technology whose purpose is to outstrip the sanctity of the book in its primitive form (call me a Luddite, lots of people do), after examining the possibilities of the Kindle through a poor college student’s lens, I have arrived at a conclusion. For my specific demographic, the Kindle could do a world of good.

Before I go on I must give pause, because like any tool, the Kindle can be used for good or for evil. While manufacturers may only see smiling consumers, the Kindle has just as much potential for harming the world of education and reading as it could in enhancing it.

As of now the Kindle doesn’t allow readers to use e-books they buy from another company or another Amazon device, which creates a stalemate on the growth of this industry. In many ways, we are seeing the explosion of file sharing in the music industry, only in text form.

According to Chris Snyder, author of a Wired article about the Kindle, “In addition to being Kindle-only, any books protected by digital rights management [DRM] are restricted to a specific user and transferable on up to only six Kindles, similar to the way iTunes worked before recently going DRM-free.”

The Kindle is not free from potential stain, legal hiccups and possibly becoming a large factor in the demise of the publishing industry.

But oh, the benefits! Think about it: If every college student was issued a Kindle at the beginning of their journey in higher education, and the university subscribed to a textbook program through various publishers, with the publishers allowing their content to be scanned and transferred at a minimal cost to the university and hence the student, oh what money could be saved!

Currently it is no surprise that students are paying exorbitant amounts for textbooks, some reaching $200 a pop. The Kindle is priced at $359. If, say, the textbooks could be downloaded or transferred at $10 a pop, over four years, the student will save hundreds of dollars throughout their education.

A lot of what makes textbooks expensive for students is the constant updating of editions at a premium price by the publishers. In turn, because of the usual requirement by professors for the latest edition, it makes it almost impossible for students to utilize the used older editions at a reduced price.

If publishers agree to allow their textbooks onto a Kindle, textbooks being a product for an exclusive group of people, than that would greatly reduce printing costs (another major contributor to the overpriced cost of texts) because, ultimately, they wouldn’t have to print more than a few.

Latest editions wouldn’t have to be priced at a premium—they usually are just to make a few extra buck—without adding much substantive matter to the text. The newest editions would be better for the students not only in a cost-effective sense but also because they would be legitimate updates to the subject and not just a moneymaker for the publisher.

Of course, this concept is idealistic. In order for it to work, it would have to be ensured that all students are using their Kindle and that publishers are still making a profit, or else no one is happy.

It’s amazing that our generation is able to even discuss the idea of a world without the need for printed books. Technology is developing faster than the people developing and consuming it can understand its implications. If we are going to be in a world where technology reigns supreme, than it would behoove us to embrace it. In the world of college education, this most definitely includes the Kindle.