Kindle in Education – an entire high school gets Kindle 3s

With the Kindle 3 now at $189 and the Kindle WiFi at $139 it becomes much easier to promote the Kindle as a viable alternative to paper textbooks.

There have been a few half-hearted attempts in the past and Governor Schwarzenegger and other people have suggested using Kindles in schools – However, we now have the first full-scale roll-out of Kindles in a school.

2,100 Clearwater High School students get the Kindle 3

As a pilot for the Pinellas County school system all 2,100 students at Clearwater High School in Clearwater, Florida got a Kindle 3. A lot of credit to the principal Keith Mastorides for making it happen. Here’s a snippet from the St. Petersburg Times

When the idea was first proffered by principal Keith Mastorides last year, some students were skeptical it would actually happen.

“Especially not this school,” said senior Matt Jonson, 17.

“Maybe a nicer school,” added Adams.

Voices such as these are part of the reason Mastorides said he pushed to make the project a reality — to give students a more level playing field and prepare them for a more networked world.

There are a few reasons this is a great move and much better than the college trials –

  1. The entire high school got them – not just 50 or 100 students. You get to see the impact on students in various grades and we can study the impact over a period of years.
  2. It makes a lot more sense to get Kindles to students when they’re young and haven’t already given up on reading.
  3. It makes sense to give everyone a chance early – students with dyslexia or reading problems will benefit much more in high school or middle school than in college. They probably might not even make it to college.
  4. There are far fewer distractions in high school than in college and there’s a much higher chance students will read their textbooks and read in general. 
  5. From the students’ responses it’s clear that these high school students are approaching the Kindle with a very refreshing attitude. 

Let’s start by looking at the benefits Kindle 3 provides to students.

Kindle 3 benefits for students

All of these Kindle 3 benefits are culled from the various articles written about the Kindle high school trial. The definite benefits –

  1. No more heavy backpacks.
  2. It gets students excited about reading and schoolwork – Multiple students mention this aspect. Here’s a comment from one of the students, Desmond King, –

    “It’s fun to have electronics to learn,”

    “I think it makes us want to study more without realizing it.”

  3. Students get the books required for their coursework pre-loaded on their Kindle. At least some of them do.
  4. There’s an in-built dictionary so students can get word meanings instantly.  
  5. Students are loving the text to speech capability. That feature also really helps auditory learners (thanks to FLGRLinATL for that point).
  6. There’s not really much of a learning curve.
  7. The English Department managed to afford all the books on its wishlist –

    John Just, Pinellas County’s assistant superintendent for management information systems, said that because of savings on books, the school’s English department’s wish list was completely fulfilled.

    “The English department wish list is always that — a wish list,” Just said. “Now they’re all downloaded.”

  8. A lot of the recommended reading titles are in the public domain and thus free.
  9. Long Battery life and quick recharging.
  10. eTextbooks are cheaper than physical textbooks. The claims are 10% less for textbooks and 40% less for novels. That 10% number is depressing – there ought to be far greater savings.
  11. It’s light – The articles say 10 ounces but it’s just 8.7 ounces.
  12. Free 3G Internet means students can check things on the Internet without going to the library or to their PC (if they have one at home). 20% of students don’t have Internet access at home so it really helps.

It reminds me of a study that pointed out that most of the separation between kids from high-income families and kids from low-income families happened during the holidays and when students were outside of school. With the Kindle 3 students get a better shot at continuing to read and study outside of school.

Here are some more potential benefits –

  1. Students read more. Reading more leads to smarter students.
  2. Textbook purchases become more cost-effective. Note that we mentioned one case (English) where this has already happened. The price difference between textbooks and etextbooks will increase over time as Textbook Publishers’ monopoly gradually disintegrates.  
  3. It helps level the playing field. If your school is giving you a Kindle and you have access to millions of free public domain books that’s a lot better than not having money to buy books.

Sources used for compiling these lists include WTSP’s article about the Kindle 3 high school trial and the other two articles linked to in this post.

Fighting off Expensive Textbooks

Here’s a comment from Bucnright talking about textbook prices –

The average math text book in Pasco was $63. each high school student averages 6-7 text books which can also be damage or misplaced. Thats is $378 given to a student every year.

The kindle can stay with the student and update with subjects.

On the surface it seems like a $139 Kindle WiFi or a $189 Kindle 3 is expensive – However, textbooks really add up.

Here’s a comment from a college student (EquinsuOcha) –

Why can’t colleges like mine (Eckerd) embrace the same technology?

I pay $120 for a text book that is out of date by the time the next semester rolls around, and is completely useless within a year.

Textbook prices really are a big problem. Get enough students a Kindle and textbook publishers’ hold over distribution gets destroyed.

Note-taking isn’t a problem – It’s just like texting

Here’s an example of high school students having great attitude –

“It’s just like texting,” said senior Gabrielle Adams, 17, about inputting notes.

“And everybody knows how to text,” Niles said.

Whether the students end up liking the eReaders or not we at least know they are going in with an open mind.

Contrast that with college students in the Kindle trials who were complaining about not being able to scribble in the margins. The expectation level when you run a Kindle trial in Princeton is completely different and in some ways it defeats the purpose – With college students you get students who are already in college and usually quite privileged.

One of the strange things was multiple mentions of being able to add notes on the Kindle. Perhaps students are currently getting textbooks from the school that they aren’t allowed to make notes in. Here’s a snippet from MyFox Tamba Bay’s coverage of Kindles for students at Clearwater High School –

“It’s a lot lighter, it’s easier to read, and you can make notes, which you can’t do in a regular textbook,” Bennie Miles observed. “I think that’s pretty cool.”

It’s good to see a lot of enthusiasm. With the college trials you had students voicing a lot of concerns. At some level they were comparing eReaders against notebook computers even before starting.

These high school students are very positive and hopefully that translates into them benefitting a lot from their Kindles.

Student Insurance Policy

This was interesting – For a $20 or $25 fee students can insure their Kindle 3. If they lose it they pay a $50 deductible and get a Kindle 3. If they lose the new Kindle too then they have to buy a new one themselves or go back to textbooks.

That insurance policy sounds a lot better than anything available commercially – at least that’s my understanding.

Quick Note on Price

At $177.78 per Kindle 3 and with free 3G Internet included the only eReader that comes close is the Nook. Even Nook doesn’t have free Internet. Free Internet is a factor because students can refer to the Internet right from class and 20% of them don’t have Internet at home.

The Sony 650 at $225 is 26% more expensive and doesn’t have text to speech or good ebook prices.

The iPad at $499 is way too expensive. There will definitely be a few people claiming the iPad would be much better. Well, before we can have that argument we need to have an affordability argument and the iPad loses that badly.

Downsides of the Clearwater High School Kindle 3 trial

Well, there are obviously people who are coming up with a laundry list of negatives (it wouldn’t be very Kindle like if there weren’t super negative people attacking it) –

  1. Kindles will break far more easily than books which are pretty much unbreakable.  
  2. The insurance is a cost.  
  3. You can’t read books from non-Amazon sources unless they are DRM free.
  4. A lot of people claimed that the Kindle college trials failed – That’s not exactly correct. The overzealous National Federation for the Blind had them shut down because the Kindles weren’t accessible.  
  5. You can’t scribble in the margins. Would be good to know whether students were allowed to do this in the textbooks they got from their schools.
  6. The cost – supposedly $177.66 each.

The list isn’t very long because most of the negative people have never seen a Kindle. In contrast to the students who are very positive there are quite a few negative comments from people at the St. Petersburg Times site.

This comment from a Clearwater High School student (kread96) is super appropriate –

Ok now everyone needs to stop, saying stuff about the Kindle’s !

because you know nothing about them! yes i go to CHS, and I have one.

They are so much easier than text books. Cheaper too. Dont say anything about them, until you have actually used them….

It’s infinitely amusing that, yet again, we have people criticizing the Kindle 3 without ever having used one. Ever since the first Kindle came out the biggest detractors have always been people who’ve never used a Kindle.

Potential Kindle 3 freezing fix available via Kindle 3 update

The latest update for the Kindle 3 is now available for download. It’s called 3.0.1 and there are three different versions.

This update seems to fix the Kindle 3 freezing issue for some/most people. People who were having the Kindle 3 freezing issue are mostly seeing the issue disappear after their Kindle 3 gets this update.

Warning: Very small sample size and anecdotal evidence.  

What is the new Kindle Upgrade? Should you get it?

An early preview release of the Kindle 3.0.1 software update is available at Amazon’s website. It’s an ‘early preview’ of a Kindle 3 update which Amazon is releasing to gather more customer information.

It’s an upgrade that is defined as –

This software update adds the ability to create a new Amazon.com account directly from your Kindle, as well as additional performance improvements.

It’s probably better defined as –

This is our best fix for the freezing issue and we’re hoping you’ll test it out and let us know. We can fix it for 80% of people who’re seeing it. We need more data to figure out how to fix it for everyone.

Note: This is just my opinion.

There’s no other explanation for why Amazon would release an ‘early preview’ and ask for feedback. It’s also puzzling that there are two sets of Kindle 3s marked out (Serial Numbers starting with B00A and Serial Numbers starting with B006) with separate fixes for each.

  1. If you aren’t having the freezing issue – Please don’t download the new update. It’s much better to wait until it’s well understood and Amazon sends it out to everyone.
  2. If you are having the freezing issue but can live with it or can’t take a chance on a ‘preview release’ – Again, please don’t download the update. It’s better to wait until the brave souls have tested it out for you.
  3. If you are experiencing the freezing issue and you’re willing to try out the Kindle 3.0.1 update – Well, check out the next section.

 Once more time just to be sure –

Warning: If you don’t have the freezing issue or aren’t willing to risk an ‘early preview’ release then please DO NOT install the fix.

How do you install the new Kindle Upgrade?

The Help Page has good instructions. However, will quickly walk you through the steps –

Go to Help and Read Instructions

Go to the Amazon Help Page linked above (Kindle 3.0.1 software upgrade). Read the instructions.

Find out which Kindle you have

Figure out whether you have Kindle WiFi or a B006 Kindle 3 or a B00A Kindle 3. 

To do this press Menu on the Kindle Home Page and choose Settings. On the Settings Page scroll down to the bottom and look at the Device Info section.

  1. Kindle WiFi – The network capability will say ‘Wi-Fi’ and serial number will start with B008.  
  2. Kindle 3G Group B006 – The network capability will say ‘Wi-Fi and 3G’ and serial number will start with B006.
  3. Kindle 3G Group B00A – The network capability will say ‘Wi-Fi and 3G’ and serial number will start with B00A.

After figuring this out go back to the help page and choose the appropriate download link.

Download Kindle 3 Update and move to Kindle 3

Choose the appropriate download link and click on it. Choose ‘Save’ in the File Download dialog and save to a Folder like Documents which will be easy to remember and easy to access.

The various file names are (these might change if Amazon changes the files) –

  1. Kindle WiFi – Update_kindle_3.0.1_B008.bin .
  2. Kindle 3G Serial Number B00A group – Update_kindle_3.0.1_B00A.bin .
  3. Kindle 3G Serial Number B006 group – Update_kindle_3.0.1_B006.bin .

Now plug your Kindle 3 or Kindle WiFi into your computer and drag (or copy) the downloaded file into the main Folder of your Kindle. This is the folder that has ‘Documents’ and ‘Music’ and other folders in it.

Update your Kindle 3

Unplug your Kindle 3 from the computer. This is important. Don’t just eject it – unplug it. Go to the Settings Page again (On the Kindle Home Page press Menu and choose Settings).

On Settings Page press Menu and you should see the ‘Update Your Kindle’ link available in the Menu. You won’t see this if you didn’t move the file correctly or downloaded the wrong file. Press this link and the Kindle will start upgrading.

Please don’t turn off the Kindle 3 or try to restart it – just let it upgrade. It takes 5 to 10 minutes (sometimes a bit longer). It goes through two restarts so don’t interrupt it if you see the second restart.

After that your Kindle 3 will be up to date. To confirm you have the latest version go to the Settings Page and at the bottom right check the Version. It should say Kindle 3.0.1.

What are Kindle 3 owners seeing with the latest update?

Well, here’s what people are reporting –

  1. Page turns seem to be faster. Not sure in my case as page turns were pretty fast and didn’t remember to time them before upgrading. 
  2. If you have a Mac you might see an issue where you get a zip file instead of a .bin file. Call up customer support. The fix (untested) might be deleting ‘.bin’ from the end of the file name.
  3. A few people were seeing Kindle 3 freezing when using the Browser and are no longer seeing that problem.
  4. Don’t see the ‘ability to create a new Amazon account’ that’s listed on the update page. Not even sure of how to check for it.
  5. Quite a few people are reporting that they are seeing no problems at all after the Kindle 3 update. There is also one person (on another forum thread) who reports that the fix didn’t work for her.

It’s pretty cool to see a potential fix done and available. It seems to be working for most people and if you’re having the Kindle 3 freezing issue – hopefully, it works for you.

Kindle Freezing Fix works for one user, 3 Kindle Book Deals

A lot about the Kindle 3 to cover in this post.

Kindle 3 Freezing Issue solved for one user, fix might be arriving soon

Thanks a ton to John for a new update on the Kindle 3 Freezing Bug and news that the fix that’s being tried out worked on his Kindle 3 –

Amazon also contacted me yesterday regarding an earlier conversation on the freezing issue and asked if they could upload an update to the firmware which they did.

I think he mentioned that the update would soon be released to all kindle owners.

My Kindle version software is now 3.0.1 (525120101).

Since the update there have been no “freeze ups”.

This is really good news – It’s working and hopefully it’ll work for all Kindle 3’s.

Contrast Effect due to Graphite Kindle Casing

Courtesy Wikipedia we get a good explanation for why the Kindle 3 Graphite is better for contrast than the white one (thanks to Sawyer for the information) –

Simultaneous contrast identified by Michel Eugène Chevreul refers to the manner in which the colors of two different objects affect each other. The effect is more noticeable when shared between objects of complementary color.

In the image here, the two inner rectangles are exactly the same shade of grey, but the upper one appears to be a lighter grey than the lower one due to the background provided by the outer rectangles.

The image shows two rectangles with outer rectangles framing them. The inner rectangles are both the same color but the one that has a darker rectangle circling it seems lighter.

That’s exactly what’s happening with the Graphite Kindle 3. Its screen seems whiter than the screen of the white Kindle 3 because of the graphite casing.

You could argue it’s perception but it’s more than that – Since there is dark graphite casing around it our eyes can better appreciate the whiteness of the ‘white’ eInk screen and in turn the darkness of the ‘black’ eInk lettering.

So, with the graphite Kindle 3, we start with a dark eInk to white eInk contrast ratio that is 50% better (mostly due to the black being richer and darker) and add on the effect of the Graphite casing – It’s really very powerful.

Kindle 3 Book Deals

Here are 3 Kindle Book Deals –

  1. The Invasion by William Meikle is rated 4.5 stars on 13 reviews and just $1.99.

    It started during a winter storm on the North Eastern Seaboard which brought with it a strange green rain. Where it fell, everything withered, died, and was consumed. The residents of remote outposts in Maritime Canada escaped the worst of the early damage, but that was a blessing in disguise, for they were left to watch as first North America, then the world, was subsumed in the creeping green carpet of terror.

    And that was just the beginning. New life forms began to arise from the ooze, simple organisms at first, but multiplying with ever-increasing complexity. The few human survivors are faced with a full-scale invasion… and only radical measures will guarantee the survival of the human race.

  2. A Death at the North Pole by Joel M. Andre is rated 4 stars on 18 reviews and priced at 70 cents.

    Detective Lauren Bruni has dealt with death for her entire life. She has watched it ruin lives, and brought people closer together. Her job taught her to separate fact from fiction.

    But on a cold December day, all Lauren had believed in would be shattered and tossed aside. Thrust in a world unlike any she has seen before, she investigates a prominent figure’s grisly murder, and searches for answers along a strange new set of people.

    With a killer watching her every move in the background ready to strike again at a moments notice

  3. Where You Belong (None) by Patrick Dilloway is rated 4 stars on 8 reviews and priced at $1. A book inspired by The World according to Garp.

    Frost Devereaux’s odyssey of self-discovery spans three decades and takes him to every corner of America. Guiding him along his journey are the twin loves of his life: Frankie & Frank Maguire. Through his tempestuous relationships with them, he learns who he is and where he belongs.

Getting 34 free books this week is making me wonder whether it’s sustainable – Could we really have an ebook/book world that provides 30-40 free book offers every week?

There was a time when we had a few free book offers a month and any Kindle owner you told she/he would be seeing 34 free book offers in a single week would have laughed at you.