This post covers my initial thoughts on the Kindle, a few usability suggestions I haven’t seen mentioned and what would make the Kindle THE educational device of the future for me and many others.
When D&H, LLC bought me an Amazon Kindle so that I could work on a consulting project (I originally refused the extra work due to headaches on a computer screen) for their new entity, I finally got to try out the gadget I’ve been anticipating for a long time.
Not only did reading on the eInk display rid me of the headaches I’ve endured in recent years, but the Kindle has become a more integral part of my life than my Treo, which I use a lot.
In the months before possessing one, I read too many articles about the Amazon Kindle and know a lot about what has already been written. After having read dozens of articles and books, familiarized myself with the technology, purchased books in the store, taken pages of notes and developed a system to replace my Neal’s Notes previously on paper, I feel like I have enough of a handle on the Kindle to know what remains to turn it into my library, classroom and university for the rest of my life.
From my clippings file, first a few details that Amazon missed:
- Needless to say, #1 is speed. Amazon knows this…I’m sure. I can’t get to scriptures in Church faster on my Kindle than my neighbor can in print. Shouldn’t be that way.
- For searching, one search result in a title should take you straight to that section in the book rather than to a list of one result in the book. Similarly, if there is only one book with multiple results, go to that book’s list of results automatically. Every click on eInk is slow – let’s reduce the clicks.
- Why not take a note search result to the section of the book is AND open the note to the sought after words? I have many pages with multiple notes. My search lead me to my note, not the book text.
- On my Palm, Mobipocket talks link directly to my scriptures. These features are gone on the Kindle. Inter-book linking seems like a must in the future. Thank you for the links to the web!
The Educational Device of the 21st Century
I am already trying to persuade my old school to adopt the Kindle into their educational approach. I wish I had a database of all that I learned at American Heritage Academy about history, economics and government. I wish I had my insights at that time recorded in notes that stay with me. I would have been able to take that database into my University experiences to refute or backup what I learned in my classes. It would have grown year by year and become more valuable. Instead, I have piles of books and notes that no longer inform my life because I can’t quite remember which class, or which box contains the ideas I remember.
I want to see a school adopt the Kindle accross the board because of the way learning the concept of a personal database of knowledge will empower students in the future.
I know this has been possible since the laptop and PDA era, but I always had two limitations:
- No one had convinced publishers to let me search through the books I purchase. I want them digital. And if the publishers will only give it to me under a DRM, then so be it, at least I can search it now. Somebody please get Jim Colin’s publisher to put Good to Great on the Kindle, please – how I’d love to have that book searchable to me.
- No one had given me a way to have it as accessible as I need it. Portable and readable (for me a Treo or iPhone screen isn’t readable because it gives me headaches).
Since 2001, I’ve carried around a book I call Neal’s Notes where I write down flashes of insight, ideas and inspiration as they occur in my life. I’ve always wanted it to be searchable, alongside other important information I encounter.
So, with that background and bias on what I think the Kindle’s educational value could be, here’s what needs to happen:
- Create a way to store multiple clippings files and either select which file in the add notes screen or assign the notes of a book to a specific clippings file. This would allow me to easily put together notes for specific purposes (a talk or an essay). I would then transfer that clipping file to my computer to process my research.
- Bring the web and the book paradigms together so that I can take notes on web pages, highlight them, etc. As soon as I say a page is important enough to highlight and note, it should become part of my personal database (I love Kindle search, btw).
- Provide a service that backs up everything on my kindle, not just purchased books’ notes and marks (charge me if you want to…I want to back up my entire library and you don’t have it all and never will…Grandpa’s personal history doesn’t need to be on Amazon.com because it has no commercial value, but I read it and highlight stuff and I’d like all my knowledge backed up and searchable in one place for when I upgrade to another Kindle).
- Provide a way to save a dictionary word to a list of words that I’m learning. Make it possible to add these words right inside the lookup feature.
- Create a simple note editor that backs up on Amazon, but is not connected to a book, better yet, it is a book. I need a place to take notes not related to a book (my work-around is working for this for now).
Down the road, these would be really nice:
- Creating knowledge communities around books is a great idea (one that other’s share). Amazon’s Your Media Library is a fantastic start, but it doesn’t allow you to read notes or books for Kindle online. Nor does Kindle help you participate in Your Media Library.
- A programming API that would allow others to develop educational applications around the Kindle.
- Finally, and this could be covered by number 2, I’d replace my treo with this thing if I were able. I’d have my calendar and reminders on it. My contact database. Then I’d have a cheap cell-phone with an eInk screen for calls instead of a Treo or iPhone. But, I’m sure I’m in the minority on this one…I’m accustomed to carrying a book and I’m sick of my phone’s screen
I realize the folks at Amazon are smart, and have probably already thought of these ideas. I thank you for what you’ve done with this so far and I’m looking forward to the rate I which I can learn and grow using this new tool that has truly blessed my life. It doesn’t feel like a gadget anymore, it feels like part of me, part of my life. Thank you.