GCN LAB IMPRESSIONS

A Kindle for the rest of us?

Amazon launches free Kindle for PC

Teaching at the University of Maryland University College, I’ve seen a couple of students using Amazon Kindles. The reading device’s new toy appeal always causes a crowd of curious onlookers to form around the Kindle users: “Do you like it?” “What books do you have on it?” “How long does the battery last?” “How much did it cost?” But selling for $259 this week on Amazon.com, Kindles fall under the category of wants, not needs. I need a new winter coat; I don’t need a Kindle.

So the news today that Amazon is introducing “Kindle for PC” as a free application really caught my attention. I might not have a Kindle, but I definitely have a PC. That single word “free” could put Kindle for PC squarely into my needs category.

The software will use Amazon’s Whispersync technology, which saves and synchronizes bookmarks and the last page you’ve read across a Kindle or Kindle DX. Kindle for PC also will offer Windows 7 users the ability to “turn” pages with a swipe of the finger, mimicking the act of reading a paper-and-glue book.

Although Kindle for PC will be ready in November for free download at www.amazon.com/KindleforPC, most of the 360,000 e-books available cost about $10.

My guess is that there will always be paper-based books to some degree, but people have said that about newspapers too, and look at how that industry is changing and contracting. This painful shakeup we’re experiencing is nothing new. I think back to the story of my grandfather Edward Walsh, who ran a blacksmith and livery business in midtown New York in the early years of the last century. Shortly before he died, Grandpa Eddie met with representatives from the Goodyear Tire Company to talk about segueing from horseshoes into the tire business. He died before he made the switch, but I have to admire Grandpa Eddie for envisioning and embracing a New York filled with cars and taxis, and not clinging to his disappearing city filled with horses and carriages.

So I’m trying to embrace a world with fewer paper books, magazines and newspapers. If someday I look up and see my classroom filled with Kindles or something similar, that’s OK. I had a student with a bad knee who struggled with the four-pound textbook required for my class; he would have been helped tremendously by the slim, 10.2-ounce Kindle.

But remember, while you’re in my classroom, no texting.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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