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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Death of Textbooks: Free Kindles for Reedies

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Wed, May 6, 2009 at 1:02 PM

The big news in nerd world this morning is that Amazon unveiled a brand new kind of Kindle — designed bigger for easier reading of newspapers and textbooks. The Wall Street Journal actually leaked this news on Monday, including an interesting note for Portlanders: Reed College will be part of a six school pilot program for the new device. According to Reed chief technology officer Martin Ringle, next year all students in certain programs (probably humanities and social sciences) will get a Kindle 2 or DX if they so desire. "We're thinking this will be a watershed device and that if we're involved in this pilot program, we'll be getting a front row seat to see how good or bad it is," says Ringle.

The bigger Kindle retails for $489 and while Ringle is under order not to disclose any of the financial workings of Reed's partnership with Amazon, he says students who receive Kindles next year won't have to shell out any money from their own pockets. Apparently Amazon is willing to invest in Reedies as the kind of hip kids who are perfect for viral marketing? Anyway, this is certainly another step in our peaceful progress toward a Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey vision of the future, where there are no books and teachers and friendly holograms.

The manager of Reed's bookstore says an average Reedie spends between $500-$1000 on textbooks every year. Much of the high cost of textbooks is wrapped up in high printing fees, so while students will lose whatever tuppence they can normally get from reselling textbooks, the hope is that e-books will work out to be way cheaper overall. "This is a device that could enable you to put every book you use in your college career in one place," says Ringle, who points out that buying fewer paper textbooks will help the environment, too. Ringle did not, however, factor in the environmental impact of countless textbook bonfires Reedies are certain to set now that finals are wrapping up and free Kindles are on their way.

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