Kindle not worth Granite’s money

By By Liz Carlston

By Liz Carlston

The Granite School District recently blew $52,773 on a product that is supposed to replace books. The district purchased 147 Amazon Kindles at $359 apiece in an effort to cut down on paper costs and the space and energy needed to store books. The Kindle is an electronic reader that allows the user to download content and read on a high-resolution screen.

The Kindle is touted as the answer to literacy problems facing the district. However, the inherent flaw in the district’s logic is its assumption that students will read more books because they are presented in a new format.

Sure, there are perks that come with the Kindle that potentially could be implemented at the U, specifically to reduce textbook fees for students. With textbooks running $100 or more, Kindle titles cost an average of $10 and can easily be shared among several users.

It is disconcerting that the district invested in a technology that is unproven in the marketplace, not to mention that the product can only be utilized by 0.002 percent of its student body, as the district’s Web site reports servicing 68,075 students. Unlike Apple’s iPod, the Kindle does not have a touch screen, intuitive scroll wheel, or clear transitions between chapters and pages. It’s also an expensive product to replace if it gets damaged, stolen or becomes obsolete.

In May, Los Angeles hosted Book Expo America, a trade show for networking and selling within the publishing industry. Industry experts were abuzz debating how technology would change the book market since content could be presented in a paperless format and downloaded to portable reading devices.

It’s fascinating to consider that the book industry could also fall victim to what happened to the music industry in the late ’90s with the development of popular Internet sites that made it easy for listeners (particularly college students) to download popular music for free. Of course, Apple came to the rescue by developing iTunes, giving listeners a legal and affordable platform to purchase songs while music publishers still received compensation. The music industry changed because the Internet hit sales in the traditional music distribution model hard and profits for record companies and artists plummeted.

Perhaps the publishing industry will soon face a similar scenario because of emerging technologies and consumer preferences. There is a lot of potential for the developing format, but we seem to be at a crossroads in terms of aligning the technology with consumer behavior.

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Liz Carlston