Amazon just announced a large-format version of their electronic book reader, called the Kindle DX, which you can see in action at engadget. The product doesn't launch until this summer, but it could be in the hands of many university students for a pilot coming to five schools this fall. Library Journal reports that these schools are: Arizona State, Case Western Reserve, Princeton, Reed College and Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. As of yet, there are no law schools who will try this out. Because Kindle books are typically locked into a single device, this could mean the disappearance of a used book market. That said, it means fewer dead trees and possibly more publishing options for content producers. In law schools, where much of the raw source material is in the public domain, casebooks and case compilations could be done very economically, if not for free.
An interesting feature of the new device is that it supports native PDF documents, instead of forcing people to pay to convert them to a proprietary Kindle format. This means you could get class notes or reading materials in PDF format and read them directly. It's not clear if this would support image-based formats like scanned law reviews from Hein Online or published reporter cases from Westlaw. If so, this could be a boon for students willing to pay almost $500 for the device.
In the past, there has been some debate over whether libraries can lend Kindle readers to their users. One problem with having a Kindle in a library is that book purchasing is tied directly to the account on the device. A library owning one to lend would have to disable purchasing options. Books purchased for the Kindle cannot be transferred to another device.
In advance of the latest Kindle announcement, the New York Times ran a story about large format e-book readers, exploring questions of whether these could save daily newspapers. Media conglomerate Hearst Corporation is rumored to be launching a wireless e-book reader. They publish everything from Harper's Bazaar to Good Housekeeping to Popular Mechanics. It will be exciting to see how electronic books develop over time. They look like a possible life preserver for print media. Perhaps this Fall we'll see how they fare in the education sector.
Update: Additional coverage, including law school topics, is found here:
- Who will get the first e-book into the law school classroom?
- Case Western Reserve University students will use textbooks on Kindle electronic reader