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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    UA out of Kindle discussion…for now

    In the ever-growing world of technology, where small and mobile equal sleek and sexy, one Arizona university is jumping on the bandwagon of a device that could significantly lighten your backpack.

    And it’s not the UA – at least, not yet.

    When Arizona State University Professor Ted Humphrey went on vacation last year, his summer reading list was extensive. He decided that, rather than carrying traditional books, he would instead bring an electronic reader.

    He was able to download most of the titles on his list and he saved himself, and his shoulders, from lugging around pounds and pounds of books. The electronic reader of Humphrey’s choice – a Kindle.

    The Kindle is a handheld digital device that stores and displays readable text. It’s designed and distributed by online sales giant, and its small size makes it more convenient to carry than conventional books, which would seem to be good news not only for university students, but for professors as well.

    Kindle appears to be just the thing that universities across the nation would be clamoring to bring into classrooms. In fact, several schools across the country have decided to do just that, including ASU, where select students in Humphrey’s The Human Event course will be receiving the units as part of a pilot program to test them in classroom settings.

    Some of the colleges that will see Kindles adorning their hallways are Princeton University, Case Western Reserve University, Reed College and the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia.

    With several universities across the country utilizing the advantages of the Kindle, it seems only right to wonder whether such technology will be available at the UA anytime soon.

    The message from UA officials was clear – don’t count on it anytime soon, unless students overwhelmingly cry out for it.

    “”Book content offered in the form of an e-book or digitalized download books are being more frequently offered as an alternative option to printed books,”” said Frank Farias, UA Bookstores executive director. “”This makes a lot of sense in some cases, but not in all.””

    It is the Bookstores’ responsibilty to provide students with every option available, to make it more convenient, cheaper or less stressful – to get the required texts for classes, he said.

    If the student demand for Kindles is overpowering, then the bookstore would make Kindle available, he added.

    “”Others are also actively going after the sale of electronic books, including Apple, Google and Sony,”” Farias said. “”The UA Bookstore has not been approached as a beta site as was ASU, but we would not eliminate the possibility of participation.””

    Farias went on to say that the UA Bookstore is planning to be at ground zero, Kindle or not.

    After hearing the future plans that the UA Bookstore has, it’s natural to wonder whether or not Kindle is actually the wave of the future. It is apparent that neither Farias nor the university were willing to put all of their eggs into one basket by contracting solely with Amazon. “”We recently placed an order for an on-demand publishing device that will also serve as yet another alternative,”” Farias said. “”Ultimately, the UA Bookstore will deliver the course material content in whichever form our students prefer to obtain the information and whichever option offers our students the best price.”” But such options may not necessarily be textbook-free and convenient enough to adequately compete against the likes of Kindle.

    Using ASU as a test model, Kindle units will be offered at a significant discount, saving students anywhere from 30 to 50 percent over the cost of traditional textbooks, said Kari Barlow, assistant vice president for the University Technology Office at ASU.

    “”But the Kindle has a few more traits that might appeal to the college crowdð – more so than more traditional materials.””

    As well as being lightweight and easier to carry, the Kindle may potentially have less of an impact on the environment, by reducing the amount of electricity, water and lumber needed to produce paper books.

    More than 240,000 titles are currently available for download to Kindle, said Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.

    Many of these titles can be purchased for around $10, and a select few classics are even available at no cost. Kindle utilizes built-in wireless technology, allowing users to download new titles on the go.

    Whatever direction the university’s students or faculty decide to go, it is clear that traditional textbooks can no longer be considered the benchmark media for education.

    Whether the student body decides to adopt the Kindle or one of the myriad alternatives on the horizon, technology is expanding at an exponential rate, and UA students are relying on their university to be at the forefront of whatever advances technology can bring us.

    No longer should students be forced to purchase textbooks, as long as viable alternatives exist. ASU gets it. Will the UA?

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