Views: Kindle for the Academic

The Kindle e-book reader frees academics from having to carry around a huge collection of chunks of matter, but flipping from main text to footnotes is awkward, and the highlighting tool doesn’t replace the bracketing, underlining, and commenting that we do between the lines.

In a few days, I expect to be the owner of a new Kindle DX (the full-page reader, designed for magazines and full-page PDF readings). I found the Kindle most useful when I was reading for pleasure.

I have to admit I am scared silly by the idea of a generation of students so alienated from material they are supposed to be immersed in that they rent digital textbooks that they do not intend to keep, cannot dog ear and underline, and otherwise feel totally alienated from. Even the current trend of students not underlining in books so as to preserve their resale value strikes me as appalling. Taking ownership of your education — and indeed, just learning how to read closely — means making your books part of your physical environment. In an era when you thought criminally overpriced textbooks full of uselessly pretty pictures and pre-chewed content was the absolute nadir of education, the Campus Full Of Kindles demonstrates we still have lower to sink. If, that is, the Kindles alienate students from their libraries rather than empowering them to immerse themselves in them. —Alex Golub, Inside Higher Ed

I hear students tell me that in some disciplines, individual textbooks cost $200. I don’t think it’s the Kindle that’s done the alienating.

Update: MIke Arnzen invokes the Kindle in a good post on teaching creative writing in the digital age. His reflections parallel many of my own, as I contemplate my role as a teacher of journalism.