4 Reasons Not to Buy Amazon Kindle for College

By   |  June 10, 2011

The Amazon Kindle has been a hit for pleasure readers. Although Amazon has worked hard to target students in pilot programs and textbook publisher agreements, its flagship E-reader has failed to gain acceptance on college campuses. A number of problems make the Kindle a poor match for college students.

1. No Student Pricing for Subscriptions

One benefit of forking over thousands of dollars in tuition and fees for a college education is student pricing for newspapers, journals and magazines. The Wall Street Journal allows students to subscribe at significant fraction of the regular price, for example. Unfortunately, the Kindle edition doesn’t qualify for this special pricing. Kindle editions often lack archive and online access as well.

2. Kindle Textbooks Are Too Expensive

Kindle textbooks are cheaper than the new versions but typically cost more than used editions. This wouldn’t be so much of an issue if you could resell a Kindle textbook, but Amazon (probably at the behest of publishers) does not allow this. Buying a used textbook and then reselling it at the end of the semester is a much better value. Add the cost of the Kindle into the mix and Kindle textbooks look like an even worse deal. Amazon needs to either discount its textbooks to reflect this, or set up an exchange where students can sell their digital property.

3. University Wi-Fi Not Always Supported

Many universities use 802.1x authentication for wireless access because it provides better security. According to the Kindle product page, the device is incompatible with these types of networks. Unless you buy the more expensive 3G model, you’ll have to venture off-campus to download books and get the latest edition of The Economist. This also means you can’t use the Kindle’s built-in Web browser on your campus’s authenticated Wi-Fi

4. Who Likes Reading Biology on a Small Screen, Anyway?

Textbooks are big for a reason. They contain large diagrams, graphs and tables that summarize content and enhance learning. It’s annoying enough when a textbook references a figure on another page, but good luck ever viewing a full-size diagram and text at the same time on a Kindle. Even the 9.7-inch screen on the Kindle DX can’t beat the two-page view of a print textbook. Not to mention you must view the entire book in black and white and can’t write notes (you can type annotations). Unless you’re an English major reading novels, you’re unlikely to find the Kindle format convenient for academic reading.

Amazon’s Kindle is an innovative device and there is no reason why it won’t become more popular over time. Rival products such as the Nook have similar failings. Even if Amazon fixes the textbook pricing, student subscription and Wi-Fi issues, the E-reader format does not lend itself well to learning. Amazon fortunately currently lets you read any Kindle book on a PC or Mac through a downloadable application. This alleviates many of the physical limitations. Maybe Amazon should focus more on eBooks for laptops?

Daniel Foster is a freelance writer and published photographer studying International Trade & Finance at Louisiana State University. His blog, PC Fastlane, covers a variety of technology topics. He owns a Kindle 3 and most recently compiled a list of the top Kindle cases.

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6 Comments on “4 Reasons Not to Buy Amazon Kindle for College”  (RSS)

  1. Maybe because I’m reading this a year after it was posted — but I think your points on price are totally moot. I just “rented” a basic economics textbook from my college bookstore for about $150. Looking online I found the same textbook for $110 (used) as the lowest price. But for the e-version it was only $50. I can buy a new kindle AND the e-version and its the same cost as just ‘renting’ one lousy used textbook from the bookstore. Given the additional savings I will have when using other e-versions in other classes, AND the additional benefit of owning a e-tablet that can be used for other utilities, its clearly a no brainer that e-readers are the way to go, even without ‘student subscription pricing’ (whatever that means).

  2. Kiss my ass I love kindles!

  3. Dan I agree with everything that you have said. I like the versatility of a tablet, both the iPad and Android devices are great!

  4. Although I see the positive to a handheld screen like the Kindle or iPad, I would much rather just get eBooks or digital copies on my computer. The screens are too small on those handhelds and I like the ease of being able to actually type on a flat keyboard and not be directly on the screen. Laptops have much larger screens and can more easily fit large diagrams and graphs, and even have more capabilities to copy and paste, edit, or send files and segments from the books. I know kindles and ipads can copy and paste, but thats about it.

  5. I would add that an Android tablet will do what a Kindle can do and a lot more for about the same price. There is no real reason to get a Kindle.

  6. I completely agree with this article. I know a couple of local colleges in my area are really trying to push the Kindle towards their students.

    I will admit that it is a pretty cool gadget, but it is not the best thing for a student. I am old fashioned in the sense that I would prefer a good old fashioned textbook, pen, and paper.

    I am not sure about this, but there could be some possible risks for people reading Kindles for hours and hours on end. A textbook may be better for their eyes, though I am not sure about that. It would be worth looking into.

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