Search Results for "kindle"

30th 2014
I think I’m a little bit in love

Posted under American history & book reviews & class & happy endings & jobs & students

Meredith Broussard

Meredith Broussard

with Meredith Broussard, a data journalism professor at Temple University in Philadelphia.  Get this:  she bans the use of e-books in her classes although she teaches courses in digital journalism (h/t to commenter Susan.)  As Broussard explains on her syllabus:

You must bring a print copy of the texts to class. While I understand that e-books are convenient, and I enjoy reading them myself, our class depends on face-to-face interaction. Print is the absolute best interface for what we do in this class. The myriad interruptions and malfunctions of electronic readers tend to interfere with class conversation and distract you from being able to refer quickly to a passage in the text. So: read on whatever you like at home, but bring a book or a printout to class.

Why?  It turns out that in her experience, our so-called “digital native” students don’t always plan ahead.  (Surprise!  Or not, for anyone accustomed to working with late adolescents and young adults.)  Also, as I have argued here in the past, she notes that codex technology is unsurpassed for her teaching style and goals:

I really do believe that print is the ideal interface for a classroom. I used to allow e-readers in class. For a couple of semesters, I patiently endured students announcing their technical difficulties to the entire class: “Wait, I’m out of juice, I have to find a plug.” “What page is that on? My Kindle has different pages, so I can’t find the passage we’re talking about.” “Professor, do you have an iPad charging cord I could use?” After a while, I realized that I was spending an awful lot of class time doing tech support. The 2-minute interruptions were starting to add up. E-readers were a disruptive technology in the classroom—and not in a good way. Continue Reading »


12th 2012
New Year’s Resolution: Hundreds of pounds gone, overnight! And a promise to keep them off.

Posted under happy endings & local news

Thanks for the memories!

Book weight, that is, not body weight.  Our recent discussion of clutter, inspired by the super-detailed and super-creepy installation “Barbie Trashes her Dream House“, has inspired me to donate the shelves full of books I no longer read or use.  I’ve just removed four boxes and large bags of books off of my shelves, and I’m just getting started.  Whichever organization calls me first to ask if I have any good, re-useable household goods, books, or clothing, and offers to pick my donation up from my front door, will be the beneficiary.

I’ve lived in this house for ten years–by far, the longest place I’ve ever lived in my adult life.  And I’ve bought or been given a lot of books over the past thirty years.  I was wondering, aside from the household clutter angle, why now?  Why get rid of the excess books now, instead of sometime during the 1990s, when I moved ten times in as many years and was always packing and moving and unpacking those damn boxes of books.  It’s perverse, no? 

Continue Reading »


12th 2011
Who’s killing the footnote?

Posted under American history & book reviews & European history & jobs & students & technoskepticism

Alexandra Horowitz blames e-books, but footnote-killing is a longstanding trend among non-virtual academic book publishers for at least twenty years.  Most university presses and tradey U-press lines use endnotes, period.  (And who other than university presses make such generous use of notes, anyway?  Nonfiction trade books usually offer the clumsy and much more paper-consumptive apparatus of citing sources by quoting the beginning of a sentence, followed by ellipses, and then listing the relevant sources.  Are tiny numbers on the page really all that distracting to the average reader?  Srsly?)   

My understanding was that the increase in paper costs nearly 20 years ago led most academic publishers to switch from footnotes (at the bottom of each page) to endnotes (at the back of the book.)  Somehow, I was informed, this saves paper.  I can remember the last time I read a book with footnotes–ironically, it was Anthony Grafton’s The Footnote:  A Curious History (1997), which I re-read with my graduate seminar a few weeks ago, and which for obvious reasons offers footnotes rather than endnotes.  (Horowitz’s exploration on the life and death of the footnote uses and cites Grafton generously, too.)  But I think when it was published 14 years ago, it was already exotic for having resisted a publisher’s insistence on endnotes.

My foremost concern about e-books–or perhaps more specifically with the Kindle, although I hope those of you in the know will inform me if this is true of other e-readers–is that it makes citations by students unnecessarily annoying.  Continue Reading »


22nd 2011
Codex rules, Kindle drools. (And I told you so.)

Posted under technoskepticism

You're a renter, not an owner.

(And drooling on an e-book when you fall asleep reading can be a messy, expensive, and potentially life-threatening proposition!)

I know many of you didn’t believe me, but here’s the testimony of a Kindle-ized author and former true believer:

[W]hen the Kindle edition of my book came out, the publisher set the price at $27.95. They also raised the price of the hardback by $5.05. It’s the difference between the electronic and physical copy of the book that matters, I figured, not the cost of the book itself.

What sent me over the edge is when I saw that is charging more for the Kindle version of David McCullough’s new book than they are for the hardback (at least as of the moment that I’m writing this). This tells me that the pricing for Kindle editions has become totally untethered from economic reality, and that can’t be good for consumers. Certainly, it costs more to produce the physical book than it does to deliver the e-version. All the savings from an electronic edition of McCullough’s book are therefore flowing to Amazon rather than readers. Readers should demand better.

Instead, believes that their Kindle customers are willing to pay more for this fleeting edition than they are the thing which is permanent. Continue Reading »


18th 2010
E-textbooks: still inferior to the codex versions

Posted under jobs & students & technoskepticism

Unimpressive in actual classroom applications

Did anyone else hear this story on NPR last night about how allegedly the iPad is finally going to end the suckitude of e-textbooks?  Except the content of the story seemed to undermine the headline–it was all about how badly the Kindle sucked and how students were reluctant to buy their own iPads because they still kind of suck.  (They were happy to use the free iPads offered in trials for e-texts, though.)  The interview with Reed College Political Scientist Alex Montgomery-Amo is pretty much what I would have predicted:

Last year they tried out the Kindle and this year they’ve been given free iPads to test. Montgomery-Amo says they’re hoping to have better luck with the iPad than they had with the Kindle.

“That went … I think horribly would be a good way of putting it,” he says. “The problem is that the Kindle is less interactive than a piece of paper in that the paper, you can quickly write notes in the margin or star something or highlight something, and the Kindle was so slow at highlighting and making notes that the students stopped reading them as scholarly texts and started reading them like novels.”

The result, according to Montgomery-Amo, is that his students didn’t understand the material as well as they did when using a traditional textbook.

To make matters worse, he says the Kindle proved unable to keep up with the class discussion — it would take half a minute to load a page and by then, the discussion would have lost its momentum.

I absolutely understand the allure of e-texts.  Codex textbooks are heavy, expensive, and they use a lot of paper–there should be a better way, shouldn’t there be?  Except:  the “better way” has to actually be better than the codex edition.  Continue Reading »


7th 2009
Electronic textbooks: mole dishes insider intel

Posted under jobs & students & technoskepticism


Mr. Mole

I had lunch on Monday with a mole deep inside the world of for-profit academic publishing.  We discussed his industry’s current fascination with e-textbooks:  everyone is developing them and spending gobs of money on them, but no one has figured out how to profit from them.  (Like everything else on the internets, except for Pr()n and gambling!)  Apparently, Texas–one of two states (California is the other) that pretty much dictate what K-12 textbook companies publish–demands now that all textbooks considered for statewide adoption have e-text versions as the price of admission.  That is, having the e-text is a precondition for being considered at all, but they still have to print up the hard copies of the books, too.

The advantages to e-texts without hard copies are obvious to publishers:  no paper, printing, or warehouse storage costs, and absolutely no competition with the used textbook market.  (Used textbooks are Kryptonite to the textbook publishing industry:  they have to make all their money in one year on a new edition–after that, there are so many used copies in circulation that they can no longer compete.)  Mr. Mole said that given the minimal focus most college instructors put on textbooks, e-texts make a lot of sense, since in most disciplines they serve for the most part as expensive reference tools that aren’t read cover-to-cover but rather are consulted episodically on an as-needed basis.  In those cases, e-text versions should be welcome substitutions for the 15-pound doorstopper.

But, would e-texts work in history or literature classes?  I wondered if book-intensive (rather than article-intensive) disciplines in which reading is–or should be, anyway–not just a central methodology but also a pleasureable experience would be so eager to jump on the e-bandwagon?  Mr. Mole and I both agreed that on-line was fine for short pieces (as on blogs) and perhaps magazine-length articles, but not for books that were meant to be read cover-to-cover.  And, I would add, not even on a Kindle or other such gadget.  (After all:  who wants to spend even more time in front of a darn computer screen?  Anyone?  Anyone?  Bueller?)  Interestingly, Mr. Mole was one step ahead of me, and said that he had conducted a focus group with 10 undergraduates at his alma mater recently about e-texts.  Here’s what he found out:  Continue Reading »


24th 2009
Burn this after reading

Posted under book reviews & European history & publication & technoskepticism


Steal This "Book"

Are you ready for another cranky, technophobic rant?

Good.  Kindle.  What exactly are the advantages to a “delicate piece of electronics” that

can be lost, dropped or fried in the tub[?] You’d have to buy an awful lot of $10 best sellers to recoup the purchase price. If Amazon goes under or abandons the Kindle, you lose your entire library. And you can’t pass on or sell an e-book after you’ve read it.

For the absurd price of $359, this too can be yours!  This does not include the $60 wireless bill each Kindle runs up per month, since Amazon is footing  the bill (for now.)  Now, I’ve always been a skeptic of these enthusiasms for replacing paper and ink, especially for replacing them with “delicate” electronics.  (I used to have this argument all the time with Fratguy, who back in the 1990s was for the Palm Pilot as Creflo Dollar is for Jesus.  My answer?  I’d throw my FiloFax calendar and address book on the floor, open it up, and exclaim, “Looky!  It still works!  Praise the Lord.”)

Are the people who invented these things readers of books themselves?  Continue Reading »


23rd 2009
Category crisis: how should I (re)organize my library?

Posted under American history & Dolls & Intersectionality & women's history

library1John Fea over at The Way of Improvement Leads Home had an interesting post called “How do you organize your library?” a few weeks ago, and it inspired me to get serious about (finally!) reorganizing my library.  But, I have no idea where to start, or how to proceed, and unfortunately, none of the suggestions in the comments on John’s post were very helpful.  (One commenter left just one word, “KINDLE,” in the comments, rather enigmatically.  I know what Kindle is, but John’s question was more about the intellectual categories of organization, not how to manage actual physical books.)

When I started graduate school in 1990, early American history was neatly divided by geography into five categories:  New England, the Middle Colonies, the Chesapeake Bay region, the Lower South, and the Caribbean.  By the time I took my degree in 1996, there was another category added to the mix, “Atlantic World,” but astute readers will note that early American history was really in fact early Anglo-American history.  If students was interested in the history of New Spain or Brazil, they worked with Mexican historians and colonial Latin Americanists, not with the people who called themselves early Americanists.  (And–bien sur–no one was interested in New France!)  Although most of us were encouraged to read, think, and write about non-white peoples and non-English Europeans, it was expected that we’d confine our readings and research to lands under some form of English government. 

Nevertheless, the New England/Middle Colonies/Chesapeake/Lower South/Caribbean scheme is how I have organized my books since graduate school, with sections (and then later full shelves) also devoted to my books on the American Revolution, and the nineteenth century (since I was trained to teach up through the Civil War and Reconstruction, and I do that when I teach the survey.)  But since I was trained, early American history has moved from being divided into geographically and culturally distinct regions to more conceptual divisions that transcend geography and even macropolitical and linguistic borders.  This, in my opinion, is all to the good, and I’ve helped to usher along some of these changes in my own very modest way with my scholarship.  This dissolution of geographical and national borders is something that has happened throughout the historical profession, too.  Whereas once everything was filed neatly under histories of the nation-state, comparative and transnational history have confused these formerly (and deceptively) tidy categories. Continue Reading »