When I first held a Kindle (the first generation), I was instantly enamored. I was also in public education, so I couldn't afford one. However, there are few things on this planet that I like more than reading, so a little device that could hold a bunch of books and slip into my cargo pants seemed like a grand idea.
Then the educator in me started thinking of all the applications to Ed Tech and the modifications that would be needed to make this thing work in high school and college settings (namely for textbooks). Now the blogosphere is buzzing over a larger Kindle designed to take on newspapers, magazines, and, as ZDNet blogger/editor Larry Dignan points out, textbooks.
And guess what? I just don't care anymore. I always have a laptop with me. So does every college student on the planet. Worst case, I have a BlackBerry or iPod Touch. Netbooks are now making laptop computing available to public schools in huge numbers at nominal prices. Can anyone find a way to justify adding another device to students' backpacks? I don't care how big the screen is or how slick the e-ink makes the text appear on the page. I don't care if they've added color or the ability to annotate effectively.
Give me my textbooks (or whatever books) in some standardized format (PDF is fine, but I'm sure the industry could come up with some open, slick XML-based format) and display them on my netbook. Let me make annotations or interact with the touch screen on a tablet (or Apple's upcoming tablet-ish giant iPhone if the rumors are to be believed). One device, textbooks, note-taking, web browsing, productivity software, and access to the cloud. It's called a netbook, folks.
If the textbook industry cares to avoid going the way of newspapers in the next 5-10 years, it will simply need to start producing the content in an electronic format. Then all it takes is a basic app (or web browser, more likely) to access them. No Kindle, no extra devices, no extra money. Keep them in the cloud and charge a subscription fee with some sort of DRM even, if you want to protect industry profits. Suddenly, students can access their textbooks and notes anytime, anywhere, no expensive Kindle required.
Despite my initial gadget lust, the Kindle just doesn't make sense in a world where we all have netbooks tucked into our eVests and broadband is largely ubiquitous. It matters not how big the screen is.