Academic institutions reject Kindle

There has been a great deal of talk about devices such as the famous ebook reader, the Amazon Kindle and the up and coming Apple Tablet replacing the way individuals interact with printed media. However, their success in doing so has always been up to the end user's personal preference.

News reported on Beta News shows just how unpopular trials of the Amazon Kindle DX have been in academic institutions interested in trialling the technology, as a study aid for their respective students.

Since the large screen Kindle DX debuted in the spring, a number of academic institutions from secondary schools upward, ran pilot programs which tested the device's viability as a textbook replacement. Amazon announced at launch that a Kindle pilot program for university students was scheduled at at ASU, Princeton, Reed College (Ore.), UVA Darden School of Business, and Case Western Reserve University. The two-semester long program was designed to compare students' experiences with the Kindle DX with those of students using traditional textbooks in the same class, in order to ascertain if the device could be a viable replacement for the more traditional ink and paper.

According to Beta News, two trial universities running Kindle DX pilot programs have rejected the device as a potential textbook replacement. Their reasons for a rejection were: a poor feature set and the controversial accessibility issues. Primary among these is the text-to-speech capability. This text-to-speech capability came under fire shortly after the Kindle 2 debuted, by the Author's Guild, who argued they wanted writers to be compensated for the spoken "performance" of books, or otherwise have the text-to-speech function disabled.

According to Beta News, The University of Wisconsin-Madison and Syracuse University were two establishments running these pilot programs which recently decided not to adopt the device until its features are improved, including additions made for visually impared students. Ken Frazier, the University of Wisconsin-Madison's director of libraries gave the following summary of the trial at his institution:

"The big disappointment was learning that the Kindle DX is not accessible to the blind. Advancements in text-to-speech technology have created a market opportunity for an e-book reading device that is fully accessible for everyone. This version of the Kindle e-book reader missed the mark. It is relatively easy to envision an improved e-book reading device that meets the needs of the entire university community. Such a device would include universal design for accessibility, higher-quality graphics, and improved navigation and note-taking. I think that there will be a huge payoff for the company that creates a truly universal e-book reader."

This bad news came just a day after Intel announced an e-reader designed especially for the visually impaired.

Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said in a statement: "The Federation does not oppose electronic textbooks; in fact, it believes they hold great promise for blind students if they are accessible. But as long as the interface of the Kindle DX is inaccessible to the blind - denying blind students access to electronic textbooks or the advanced features available to read and annotate them -- it is our position that no university should consider this device to be a viable e-book solution for its students."

It seems that perhaps the ebook technology could be trying to run before it can walk - is it not simply enough to simply ask an ebook reader to do what it says on the box without them pushed to be integrated into our academic institutions? Or, perhaps it is a technology Neowin readers can see flying once the creases are ironed out?

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