Amazon Plans Textbook-Friendly Kindle

kindle_logo_mar09All the buzz over the past couple of days has been about Amazon’s announcement on Wednesday of a Kindle with a format suitable for electronic textbooks. Unless this version comes in color, has the ability to browse the web, and capable of displaying multimedia, it will be of limited utility for most science disciplines. Though disciplines in the social sciences can get away with  a black and white, static display, from a pedagogical standpoint the natural sciences cannot. Visualization of processes, in color, is absolutely necessary for understanding the dynamic nature of the physical world. From early reports, the new Kindle does not appear to have a color display.  Digital Textbooks, in this blogger’s opinion, should be more than a digital port of a print textbook. Digital textbooks should engage the reader in active learning, with interactive  simulations, the ability to explore related content, and means to assess learning. It appears that producing a pedagogically sound eTextbook reader is not what is on the mind of Amazon and its partners. Instead

“For textbook publishers, electronic (and DRMed) editions aren’t so much about convenience for students, but about cutting out the used-book market where a lot of students get their books and where the publisher gets absolutely nothing. In 2005, the market for used textbooks in the U.S. was valued at about $1.6 billion which was about a third of the total market for educational and professional books.” (ReadWrite Web)

Let’s hope for a pedagogically sound eTexbook reader from Amazon. If they succeed, it could be just the product the flagging eTexbook market needs.

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About Michael Ritter PhD
Professor of Geography at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, science textbook author, educational technology blogger, podcaster, and freelance media consultant.

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