College Textbooks Delivered On Kindle: Will Corporate Learning & Development Be Next?

» Posted by Jeanne Meister  » Posted on 05.05.09

Amazon's Kindle

On May 6, 2009 Amazon will unveil plans for a new version of its Kindle e-book reader. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, the new improved Kindle will sport a larger screen and other features designed to appeal to academic textbook publishers as the Kindle begins to target the college textbook market, a $5.5 Billion market in the U.S. alone.

Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland will be one of the first universities to have textbooks for chemistry, computer science and a freshman seminar already installed on the Kindle. Case Western then plans to compare student reactions to reading textbooks on Kindle with a control group who will use traditional textbooks. Five other universities—Pace, Princeton, Reed, the Darden School at the University of Virginia, and Arizona State University—are also involved in this pilot.

The world of higher education is being changed right before our eyes. And the reaction to the Kindle is impessive. While Amazon does not officially divulge sales number for Kindle (many suspect because of a desire to avoid direct comparisons to Apple’s iPod ) Michael Arrington of TechCrunch suspects that Amazon will sell at least 800,000 of the devices in 2009 alone, which would put sales for Kindle ahead of the iPod’s numbers when each device was in its second generation. What’s more, since Amazon owns the audio book company Audible, Kindle owners may be able to read a few chapters at home and then when they are in their car pick up where they left off, only this time via an audio version of the book. While you may not want to do this for your chemistry book, it can be a big plus for a best seller.

So, what can we expect in terms of penetration of the Kindle for the corporate training market? Imagine being able to access performance support, real time feedback on the job, updates to training programs a plethora of corporate documents from a Kindle at work?

Share your thoughts on opportunities and barriers to using Kindle as delivery device for corporate learning & development.

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12 Comments

  1. Nick Howe, May 6, 2009:

    This depends on the capabilities of the Kindle. Clearly many job aids and other EPSS type capabilities could be delivered via Kindle.

    I have no idea of the two-way capabilities of the device. Is it possible to collect statistics, do quizzes? Does the platform support animated (Flash or other) content or is it static only? Lack of one or both of these capabilities could severely limit its usefulness.

    It also becomes yet another device to carry around. We have laptops, cell phones (now usually a BB or iPhone), now a Kindle. In the work environment maybe the oft touted tablet PC (or tablet Mac, fingers crossed) would be a better fit than a laptop and a Kindle.

    For those without access to a laptop, then maybe a Kindle could be useful addition to the tool kit.

  2. Neil Milliken, May 7, 2009:

    As a long-time user of electronic textbooks I want them to be portable, I agree with Nick’s comment above that the Kindle or the Sony product is just another device to add to the list of things that you are forced to carry around for this reason I think that people should be looking towards mobile phones.

    The fact that Kindle is supported on the iPhone suggests that Amazon thinks so too. Emerging technologies such as pico projection, flexible plastic screens and high-quality text-to-speech ghetto around the issue of reading on a small screen.

    As someone with dyslexia I also wish to use text-to-speech and have dictionary support. As a developer of software I am working towards this in my current product CapturaTalk [HTTP://www.CapturaTalk.com] one of the biggest problems for us is that there are so many disparate formats for electronic books. For example I have just completed my masters studies with the open University in the UK and most of the textbooks were in PDF format, up until very recently PDF viewing on mobile devices was not a pleasant experience.
    Other institutions will use other formats.

    Standardising around a single format is likely to speed up adoption which can only be good. However, don’t expect this to happen quickly it took many years for the electronics giants to agree on the DVD format and look at what happened to its successor the electronics industry split into two camps and slugged it out with HD DVD versus Blu-ray for several years none of this benefited the consumer.

  3. Sanjoy Sanyal, May 7, 2009:

    Nick is right. Kindle’s impact on the corporate learning market will depend on its ability to support collaboration, adaptive learning, two way communication and so on. Just in time mobile learning has been an idea in the works for many years. the ability of the Kindle to make reading easy is a step in the right direction but it depends to be seen how everything else falls in place

  4. Sundar Nathan, May 7, 2009:

    Wonder if the lack of color support will impact the capabilities for textbooks?

    Textbooks are a killer app for the Kindle, in my humble opinion.

  5. Joe Magennis, May 8, 2009:

    I have been around the textbook space for a long time, and have expected the day when the traditional textbook would become a downloadable item…. in fact, I’m surprised it hasn’t happened sooner.

    Some factors have stood in the way; when will publishers deliver the titles in this format and where will the transaction take place? Is it the campus bookstore where students can be sure to find all required materials in one place or will they be sent scattering to the internet to track down the textbooks from numerous sources?

    The biggest hurdle is always, will faculty members adopt these titles in this format and teach to them in the classroom? … Supply and demand.

    I for one am excited to see this device with the backing of a powerhouse like Amazon behind it, however I suspect that we still have a long way to go before a transition to faculty assigning reading exclusively on the Kindle.

  6. Steven Forth, May 10, 2009:

    I suspect not. Why?

    Do we want to be locked into another proprietary platform?

    Kindle is not a good medium for social interaction. It is a private experience. As we learned at the recent Learning Innovation Network meeting, social interactions are a key part of learning.

    The tactile dimension is not there. Once one is used to an iTouch or iPhone, it is hard to go back to a passive screen, even one with the wonderful resolution of Kindle. Touch and gesture are an important part of memory (and therefore learning), one that are just starting to get back to.

    So, although I expect to do a great deal of reading on Kindle-like devices, I expect my learning to be social and tactile. If I had to go with a proprietary technology I would choose Apple. But I am hoping to see open devices that use ePaper and touch screens. Maybe not this year, but soon, very soon.

  7. Martin Brown, May 11, 2009:

    Interesting article. While I love the eReader on my iPod, and love any technology which promotes mobile learning, I just don’t see this working too well in the corporate environment. The reasons are two-fold:

    1. Corporations will want to leverage their existing mobile investment - be it a Blackberry, Windows Mobile, Nokia, iPhone etc. The Kindle is really another “iPod” device, and that means additional hardware expenditure, maintenance etc that will probably not integtrate well with existing Corporate Learning environments. It’s the solutions that will allow Corporates to create, deploy, track and measure training directly on any existing mobile device, with integration to their LMS that will add the most value.
    2. Users - again they will want to access just-in-time training via their existing device not a kindle. I couldn’t think of anything more frustrating than having to switch between several devices in my pocket, instead of just using my own mobile phone that allowed me to take training, anytime, anywhere.

  8. Kristin Waite, June 19, 2009:

    If I don’t have to carry 80 pounds of books to the library with me to study, I will be a happy camper. I don’t think people realize that the simple fact that chemistry books are heavy and cumbersome deter students from actually bringing them to class.

  9. Barbara, August 18, 2009:

    Was about to purchase the kindle until I found that none of my sons textbooks were available. When will the college textbooks be available? Will it save us money?

  10. Barbara, August 18, 2009:

    Freshman college textbooks are not available through kindle. If they were I would definately have purchased the kindle. We are waiting for this to happen. I’m hoping to eliviate some of the cost associated with textbook purchases and the burdon of carrying them around and storing them

  11. David, December 4, 2009:

    I have a child who is a freshman in college now as well, and the practicality of digital textbooks would be amazing. As one size never fits all, there is not likely to be one electronic solution that will make everyone happy, but developers and publishers, please don’t let that prevent you from moving forward quickly! One of the previous posts asked the question of delivery of the text, and I would imagine that if the digital copy of the textbook could be purchased at the college bookstore it would be most convenient for the students. Perhaps the option of both paper and CD/DVD/USB or downloadable formats could be a first step. Since most all college students carry their laptops with them constantly, it would eliminate the need for an additional electronic device, and provide an easy method to print selected pages.

  12. Erik, January 12, 2010:

    With limited browser capability and good security, I think the Kindle could have become a very strong corporate asset particularly in the world of service. Technicians working on everything from medical equipment to oil rigs need to have with them documentation, procedures and drawings in the field. That alone would be enough. If you add basic secure browser functionality back to the corporation, you could add work order updates, part orders and technical chat sessions.
    Give me that, and I would order 2k units tomorrow…..

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