As a proud owner of the PRS 500 e-reader, I commend Sony on their integration of e-ink before the Amazon Kindle. It's truly a remarkable piece of technology and the PRS 500 has served me well: it has forever changed the way I purchase and read books, much the same way the Palm Pilot changed the way I organized my life.
But there's a new kid on the block, and it's called the Amazon Kindle 2. Being able to download a book, magazine, newspaper, or blog while soaking in the sun at the beach feels like a magical experience. That sounds great, coming from a teacher during his summer break, but what about the average student in the classroom? What are the educational implications? Most kids I talk to would love to trade in their 30+ pound backpacks, filled with outdated, over-priced text books for a portable, flexible, lightweight e-book reader such as the Kindle 2, but is the world ready for this? Is it time?
Not yet. Three big obstacles stand in the way: Price, Publishing Considerations, and Color. First, the price of the device needs to come down -- way down. Amazon dropped the price of the Kindle 2 back in July, 2009 from a whopping $359 to $299. This was a great move for people who were on the fence, but in order to get schools on board, there needs to be a sub-$100 consumable device in this space -- one that won't make teachers paranoid to let it go back and forth from school to home.
As for publishing agreements, education leaders need to create some kind of licensing agreement with publishers and perhaps even invent a system whereby kids can digitally "check out" books from a "cloud" library.
Color. I don't know what kind of technology would be required to pull off a color e-reader, but the world is in color and it's hard to convince people they should be content with black and white, no matter how crisp and clear it is (and the text and images do indeed jump off the screen on the Kindle 2). In fact, novels, newspapers, blogs, and even the content of most magazines are a pleasure to read on the Kindle 2, but compared to an eye-popping, full color image in a social studies or science text book, it pales in comparison.
I'll post a more detailed look at the Kindle 2 in an upcoming review, but for now, suffice it to say: Fix these three issues and you'll see a huge move towards e-book readers in the education sector.