Kindle draws fire at Arizona State

According to a brief article in USA Today, students in the honors history of human culture and thought course at Arizona State University will be receiving Kindle ebook readers with the 30 required books for the course pre-loaded.The 30 required books for Humphrey's year-long course usually cost students about $475, but the Kindle (a wireless reading device that downloads e-books and displays them on an electronic screen) is expected to cut this expense in half.

According to a brief article in USA Today, students in the honors history of human culture and thought course at Arizona State University will be receiving Kindle ebook readers with the 30 required books for the course pre-loaded.

The 30 required books for Humphrey's year-long course usually cost students about $475, but the Kindle (a wireless reading device that downloads e-books and displays them on an electronic screen) is expected to cut this expense in half.

If the students finish the course and participate in an evaluation, they get to keep the Kindle, the newspaper reports.

30 books is a lot for a single class; it actually makes it fairly easy to justify a Kindle (or Kindle-like device), especially since most of the books would not be expected to be textbooks. In fact, as much as I'm not a big fan of any iteration of Kindle (or Amazon, for that matter), this actually seems like a pretty good idea, instead of just throwing another device at college students.

Unfortunately for most of the students in the class, The National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind don't agree with me:

Those groups say the experiment discriminates against blind students because the Kindle is not fully accessible. The two groups are seeking a preliminary injunction in federal court to stop ASU's plan to use the Kindle, the Republic reports.

The injunction could affect other schools as well:

The national pilot program could help determine whether students are willing to give up traditional textbooks for the e-versions. Along with ASU, five other universities are taking part: Princeton, Pace University in New York City, Case Western Reserve, Reed College in Portland, Ore., and the University of Virginia.

Feel free to call me out if you think I'm being insensitive here, but I have to say that the ebook movement needs to gain traction somewhere. I have no doubt that accessibility will follow (and, in fact, be enhanced by technology as text-to-speech becomes integrated with e-textbooks), but for now, the technology just needs to get used. Without usage, there will be no incentive for publishers to produce electronic content. Without electronic content, accessibility will be confined to expensive special editions of texts. This is one I'm afraid I just don't get. Am I wrong?

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