Recent reports suggest that Amazon may be readying new versions of its Kindle ebook reader for use in the textbook market. While Amazon won't confirm any of the rumblings in the blogosphere, Ars Technica reports that
The new model will supposedly be considerably larger than the original and shaped like an 8.5" x 11" piece of paper, and will be available to the public sometime next year.
It's this "new" version of the Kindle that will appeal to students the most, assuming Amazon decides to go ahead and pursue that market. There are other changes that have to happen with not only the Kindle but the e-book market in order for a "textbook" Kindle to be a hit with students, however. Continued price drops for e-books will help, as they'll be more attractive to students who currently resell their used textbooks at the end of each semester. A large inventory of textbooks will also help...
While this appears to be aimed squarely at the college market, I see no reason why it couldn't be successful in the grades 7-12 market, where outdated and beat up textbooks plague many subjects. Of course, the same conditions would have to be met, but in either market, a letter-paper-sized Kindle backed by a stable of good textbooks could go a long ways towards saving money, trees, and back muscles.
Bring it on, Amazon, and bring the textbook publishers with you. As the Ars article points out,
Although such initiatives aren't very widespread yet, they are gaining some traction in academia. A new and improved Kindle, geared toward getting electronic textbooks into even more hands, could help academia move further into the electronic age when it comes to the distribution of learning materials, and in the process, lighten the load on students' wallets.