Kindle App & Digital Books

My timing is right on with James Ritchey today.  He just wrote about the staggering numbers of iPads out there and how many people he’s noticed using the Kindle app (and other digital book readers) to read, purchase, and discuss digital texts.

This past weekend I downloaded the free Kindle app for the iPad and bought my first digital book from Amazon.  I took James’ advice and got the free trial version of the book first to make sure I really wanted to shell out the $7 for the full version, which was a good bit less than the paperback version of the same title.

As I began to read, I noticed what James also mentioned, the underlining of some lines of text.  I also searched the app to determine the lines were other folks highlights of the text. Though I haven’t figured out how to highlight the text myself on my iPad, the concept is interesting.  I’m not entirely sure I enjoy seeing the highlights that other people have made.  For me it feels a bit like buying a used textbook that has someone else’s highlights in it.  My brain tends to want to if those words are actually the most important ideas.  Truthfully, I love a clean book and the chance to make and take meaning for myself.

My reflections on actually reading a digital book so far are that it feels a bit strange to me.  While I am quite comfortable reading websites, email, and other digital texts – somehow digital books feel strange to me.  There is something about the kinesthetic experience of a paper book for me.  I may be the feel, it may be the smell – and yes, I do have a peculiar physical response to the smell of a library or bookstore that I’ve come to recognize over the years!

I experimented with the 3 different color variations you can set the book to:  black text on white paper, sepia text on white paper, and white text on black paper.  Here, it seems to be mainly a choice of the personal preference, or the lighting in the reading situation.  The only purpose I found for the white on black so far was that it made for great for reading in the dark on my porch and not having the whole world see my face lit up in the techno-glow of the iPad!

I ran across an interesting article in my Diigo tags today and there was one about how Amazon’s Kindle is bombing in some university campus pilots.  It appears that even young students prefer to be able to write in the margins of textbooks, to flip between pages, to use a book as a resource versus a linear, front-to-back type of tool that we tend to do with fiction versus non-fiction texts.  Both the Kindle and the iPad Kindle app have the ability to let you mark text and to jump from page to page – but it just isn’t the same as it is with a paper book.  Its one of those things that’s hard to wrap the head around.  There is no “feel” to a digital page and for me, the “feel” is one of the things that make books so enjoyable.

So it may not surprise you to learn that the book I bought for my Kindle app is also on its way in paper version too.  I decided to get a used copy which, when added to the cost of the digital version, equaled the total cost I would have spent on a buying a single new book.  Until there is a way for me to hand a beloved digital book to a friend whom I think might enjoy the book I’ve just read (or at least be able to send a link to a copy), I think I will still continue to stock my personal library with paper versions of the books I find the most meaning in.  That way I can write in the book to my hearts content, jump around the book whenever and wherever I want to, and hand the book off to someone I think may enjoy having it when I am done.  To each their own!  I think it will be interesting to see how new generations interact with paper and digital books!

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2 Responses to Kindle App & Digital Books

  1. “I also searched the app to determine the lines were other folks highlights of the text. Though I haven’t figured out how to highlight the text myself on my iPad, the concept is interesting.  I’m not entirely sure I enjoy seeing the highlights that other people have made.”

    To turn off other reader highlights, go to kindle app home screen, touch the “i” in lower right hand corner, touch settings and then touch “Popular Highlights” off.

    To highlight text, touch a word and select or drag handles. This feature works much better in iBooks. You can get a free book from iBooks and see for yourself.

    Regarding my blog and highlighting usefulness: if all my art history students were reading a text as homework and I could see in advance the sections they highlighted (either on their own or as an assignment) my in-class time could be spent reviewing parts of the book students had identified as important in addition to the part I identified as important. Even if the only thing I would see is the difference between what I see as important and what they see as important, this alone would help me be a better teacher. If, for example, a particular student was highlighting small details and missing big ideas, I could help that student with their reading skills. If I saw a student highlighting vocabulary words they should know from lectures, I could review that student’s study skills. I would see this information has much more helpful than what I could gather by giving quizzes (which take a lot of time). Seeing collective or individual highlighting activity would also be the easiest way to check to see if students are doing their reading and also helpful in gathering sources for test questions.

    • James – thanks so much for your guidance on how to handle turning on or off the highlighting – but even more so for your excellent ideas about how communal highlights could/would be useful to an art teacher, or any teacher for that matter! So often I find that I intuitively sense the power of an application or tool, but can’t quite wrap my head around the “how” until much later on. Seeing your clear thought process on how you’d use digital highlighting in an educational setting makes so much sense and is truly a transformative use of a very simple tool/technique!

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