Had my first touch and play with the Amazon Kindle eb0ok reader, now available in Australia. At first glance it’s smaller and lighter than I imagined, more the thickness of a magazine than a book, and lighter. Not super cheap at $269AUD and the screen wasn’t quite as clear as I was hoping: I’d need to sit down and read a couple of chapters of a book to see what the reading experience actually was like. There’s other objections too; black and white!, a lack of flexibility in the format that can’t read PDFs and needs a special format conversion to take something from your own PC to the kindle format. For a traveller I imagine this would be a great device, light enough not to get you fined for excess baggage and still have plenty of books on hand.
But what about for the student? I’ve heard a few people arguing that the ebook reader might spell the end of textbooks, but haven’t we heard that before? Many of the textbooks I see around the place include a CD of the contents in PDF format, and lots of students have notebook computers, but I don’t see many of them replacing textbooks in this way. Or is that teacher choice rather than student choice? And, if a student does have a notebook computer what advantage is an ebook reader over reading the text on their own computer?
There’s still some way to go I think, but I can imaging that we’re going to see big progress in the technology in this area. Let’s hope that open standards prevail, that publishers can all come on board and real choice, including Australian small press publishers, is there for the readers.