Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Kids and the Kindle

I don't see it. While I'm having a fine enough time with the Kindle myself, I think its lack of a backlight and color, rudimentary display of pictures, and plethora of steps and button-pushing will cause most anyone under twenty-five to dismiss it as being for The Olds (and the really Olds, like me, who love the way you can create a large-type edition at the push of two buttons). But things don't look good for the long-term prospects of the device.

But take a look at this planned successor to the OLPC XO-1, the one-laptop-per-child machine. That's promising--and on the cheap, too. And has anyone read Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age? Its heroine has the the ebook machine of my dreams.


Sarah said...

After reading The Diamond Age, I was so inspired by the Primer that I went and worked in educational computer games for five years.
Science fiction has always told inventors what to do with their inventions, and every kid's software programmer I know has read TDA, and thinks of it as a goal. We're not there yet, but we probably will be in the next fifty years.

As for the kindle, my favorite thing about my ebook reader is that I can read in the dark. No backlight makes no sense to me at all.

HG said...

I love that novel.

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Brian Floca said...

Unlike the Kindle, the XO2 looks like one slick little device (at least when open). But if it touches the tech-lust impulse, it also inspires an equal measure of unease, for I fear the coming of -- the animated picture book. I’m sure there will be wonderful ones, but I also wonder whether or not readers of the distant future (2010) will have patience enough to sit down and lose themselves in the wonder of looking at pictures, even ones without moving parts and buttons and tones, even ones that try to do something other than mainline constant stimulation to the reader. In other words, will the XO2 come with Ritalin?

david elzey said...

While I totally love the OLPC the Media Lab at MIT has another project I'm really looking forward to: the e-ink newspaper. Looks like an sheet of opaque plastic, refreshes news live, the end of deforestation. I don't know what this means for the future of books, but the Kindle is certainly not part of it.

Industry Shill said...

Actually, deforestation is when people clear land permanently -- for farming, development, grazing, etc. It has very little if anything to do with paper production; trees for paper production are harvested and replenished like any crop.

fairrosa said...

The e-ink/paper has been in development for at least a decade now... I would really love to see its real uses. I played with the XO a little -- liked it ok but didn't love it. I think all my 4th grade students are getting another smaller laptops next year and my daughter pilot used it for a while -- she liked it, once the initial adjustment of reduced keyboard size and different touch pad design (from her own laptop).

I still like the physical objects of books -- how each book is different in trim size, color, weight, paper quality, etc. All my last experiences with ebook readers (from computers, to stand alone ebook readers, to PDAs) all ultimately proved unsatisfying because "every book was the same" (even when I could choose different fonts to display). But of course, this pleasure might mean little to those who will eventually grow up with non-book text delivery systems.

(When did I last actually receive a hand-written letter from a friend? And do I miss the colors, the paper choices, the envelopes, etc.? No, I don't even give it any thought any more...)

Bill Ferriter said...

Interesting thoughts on the Kindle, considering that I love mine---even without a backlight!

As a sixth grade teacher, I've started to use it in class with my kids too. Biggest advantage: I can download sample chapters of novels that my kids might be interested in.

Right now, I've got about 20 on my machine and the kids select which they're interested in. They read the sample chapters, which gives them an idea of books they might want to actually sign out of the library.

For me, the best part of the Kindle is not needing to find storage space for the books I finish reading---I know a library would offer the same feature, but I'm not a library kinda guy.

All in all, it's a device I love...and I don't see it going away only because Amazon's not going anywhere soon!

Enjoying the conversation,
Bill Ferriter

Roger Sutton said...

Bill's idea is terrific--for those of you who don't know how the Kindle works, it allows you to download (for free) from Amazon via the sky the first chapter of most books offered for sale at the Kindle store. It's a great new way to browse, and I could see kids enjoying the novelty of the format. What's the pass-through rate, though? Do the kids then go on to check out the print book from the library and read it?

I downloaded Ramona the Pest onto my Kindle yesterday to get some idea of what a chapter book might look like. It seems to work fine as far as the text goes but the rendering of the spot illustrations is pretty bad, and if you have the type sized close to that of the printed book the pictures show up alone on the screen rather than being wedded to text. I appreciate Brian's concerns about what e-readers might do to picture books, but it ain't gonna happen on the Kindle. Brian, you might be interested in the work illustrator Jean Gralley is doing in digital picture books--I think there's an article by her on the Horn Book site (sorry, STILL haven't figured out how to link from comments) and there are some examples at her site,

I'm with Roxanne in noting the tedium of reading everything on the same device, with the same type size and the same font. Your realize how much book design matters when you don't have any!

Susan said...

It’s MCAS test taking time here in Massachusetts and my daughter told me this story last night: the kids aren’t allowed to have their cell phones or ipods or anything electronic with them while they take the test. But they are allowed to bring books to occupy them when they’re finished before they can go back to the regularly scheduled day. Anyway, yesterday one boy was completely distraught because the teacher wouldn’t believe he only read using his e-book device (not sure which one) and kept telling him that he’d just have to read a real book and he said he hated them and he kept losing them. The whole homeroom then got into a discussion of what exactly makes a book a real book, trying to get the teacher to let them use their ipods too. Oh, they're all 10th graders.

Brian Floca said...

The digital book work at Gralley’s site is interesting and original and worth the look, thanks. Still, and despite some strong early adapter tendencies, I’ll continue to favor paper, hands down. If the procrastination impulse was (even) stronger, I’d take the time to try to unravel those feelings. In the meantime I defer to and recommend William Power’s essay “Hamlet’s Blackberry: Why Paper is Eternal,” which makes an interesting argument for why physical paper, binding, and ink offer the best available technology, batteries or no, for at least some types of reading. Much in the essay is specifically about newspapers, but more broadly the essay takes apart and examines things we take for granted about how ink and paper and the brain and body work together. Readers can Google the essay and download the PDF. Then they can read it online (with irony) or print it out (without).

Vanessa said...

I love my kindle and so do many of my college age and teen friends! Its cool because it is nerdy, and nerdy is in.

Anonymous said...

see today's NYT on publishers' concern about KINDLE

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