E-textbooks vs. Kindle DX: What will college kids pick?

Amazon's latest device, the Kindle DX, is being marketed with an emphasis on college textbooks. Is it worth the price, or are e-textbooks a better solution?

The Kindle DX is geared, among other things, toward textbooks, a potentially huge target market. Amazon

Amazon announced its most recent Kindle device this week: the Kindle DX . Though it's almost identical to the original Kindle, this newer model is marketed for use with textbooks and for reading periodicals. While this seems to give the impression that Amazon has presented a more practical solution for college students, it's likely that the everyday pupil will reject this new device.

Currently, most students purchase their books on campus, where new and used copies are available, while the more frugal of us order online from Web sites like Amazon.com or eBay's Half.com. At the end of the semester, students can sell their books back to the school or to online buyback services where they receive a check for about 15 percent of the original price. For decades, this has been the routine.

More recently, however, the words "e-textbook" and "Netbook" have created a buzz around campus.

E-textbooks have been available for some time now, and are currently purchased for use on a laptop or desktop for about half the price of the print book version. Electronic textbooks are an excellent alternative to print books since with them, a student can search for a specific word or topic, copy/paste text into their coursework, comment within the textbook, and enjoy a lighter backpack.

The most popular vendor for e-textbooks, CourseSmart.com, offers all of these advantages for students with a couple of exceptions. As mentioned, while the e-textbooks are purchased at about 50 percent off the print book price, students are essentially paying for a subscription--most books can only be accessed for 180 days (the length of a semester).

Though it's not mentioned by CourseSmart, students may copy and paste parts of the textbook into a word-processing application for safe keeping. Additionally, students must choose if they'd like to download the book and view it on one computer, or access it online from any computer--they can't choose both. Since most students have free Wi-Fi around campus, there would be little reason to download a text for offline use.

Bye, bye print. College Jolt

Unlike the Kindle, students can take notes on their laptop or Netbook in class, while referencing the textbook in another window. We (college students) are overwhelmed by school supplies, technology, and a busy class schedule, so when it comes to getting our life organized, we consolidate. This means keeping a calendar on our phone or laptop instead of a paper planner, taking electronic notes instead of carrying binders, and (if we are lucky enough) using our phone as an MP3 player. This leaves little room for yet another device, like the Kindle.

The Kindle DX is priced at whopping $489, a higher price point than a Netbook. Amazon has yet to release information about textbook pricing and whether they will be subscription-based; however, it has already partnered with a few major textbook publishers.

A little free, unsolicited advice, Amazon: Gives students the option to purchase non-subscription-based e-textbooks and you'd at least get our attention. While the Kindle does offer many of the same features as an e-textbook, it does not fit into a consolidated lifestyle so it's unlikely that a student would purchase a Kindle if their laptop can be utilized as an e-textbook reader.

Sorry, Amazon, many of us students don't have the space or money for your latest and greatest device.

About the author

Sharon Profis is a CNET How To expert who cooks up DIY projects, in-depth guides, and little-known tricks that help you get the most out of your tech. During her four years at CNET, she's covered social media, funky gadgets, and has shared her tech knowledge on CBS and other news outlets.

 

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