Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Kindle for LIS Students

A few months ago, I decided it was time to buy a 3G Kindle after hearing a few classmates rave about how useful it was for reading-heavy courses (and also because I wanted to load it up with fun books too!) I've been really impressed with it thus far, and have found it to be a big help for storing and accessing professional reading material. A number of folks have expressed frustration over Kindle's lack of page numbers, but I like this author's review because it acknowledges that these are shortcomings of e-readers in general. I'm a little bummed that I can't easily use my Kindle to store articles for my research that I need to cite page numbers for (that would make me very happy), but I can still use it to read the articles and reference the 'location' later to get a general sense for where in the article the information is (it's a little extra work, but a lot easier than hauling a ton of papers and books with me everywhere I go). The good news is that the lack of page numbers is causing discussion amongst academics, so hopefully new versions of style manuals will address this.
The Kindle, apart from being lightweight and user-friendly, has a few features that I think are especially useful to LIS students. In the 'experimental' settings users can find a browser, and with free 3G coverage for the latest generation, I can access what I need even when I'm outside of the range of wifi. I definitely recommend using Kinstant (a Kindle-friendly start page with links to social media, email, and news, with the option to add your own favorites). Even though it isn't going to provide the same surfing experience you get with a color screen (the screen does take a little longer to load, and is black and white), the browser on the Kindle is actually quite good, especially if you're only using it for short spurts.
Other features students might like: you can upload material from a variety of sources, not only from Amazon. Mine is filled with PDFs of B Sides articles and with some of my favorite class readings. You can also download items from Open Library. I referenced this book in my latest research, and was excited to see it included in Open Library for my use! You have the option of either reading online or downloading a PDF, and for Kindle users, you can have items sent directly to your Kindle (just click 'send to Kindle' next to the version you want!) For those who use Open Library, definitely consider helping out by adding to descriptions of books, adding tags, etc.
Reading class PDFs is also a breeze on the Kindle thanks to its built in dictionary (this has been a huge help with some of the obscure culinary terms I run across in my current research). The Kindle uses the Oxford dictionary (my personal favorite): just move the cursor to a word, and the definition appears at the bottom of the screen. You can click on it to see a longer definition as well. The Kindle also allows for highlighting and adding notes (another useful feature for all those PDFs we read!) It shows you how many other readers have highlighted a piece of text, which can be helpful for trying to extract important information from articles you are struggling with.
Most exciting to me is how easily I can access content that is updated frequently (online news and blogs). There are a few LIS blogs available for subscription (usually for ~$1 or $2/month) along with tech and education blogs. And blogger friends, you would be amazed how easy it is to list your blog in the Kindle store. I listed both this blog and my other blog in the Kindle store in less time than it has taken me to write this post. I'm always encouraging my fellow students to get out there and network and seize opportunities to make their work more visible, and this is definitely a way to do that! To do it, go to the Kindle Store and click on 'publish on Kindle' in the left-hand column under 'around the store.'
Lastly, if you still aren't feeling like you get all the features you need with your Kindle, poke around a bit! They might be buried in the menu, or might have been addressed by other developers (this post by Rachel Smalter Hall is a great jumping off point for those with older Kindles). Apparently the Kindle has some fun Easter eggs on it (Google maps!), but I don't know enough about fiddling with my firmware to feel comfortable getting in and messing with them. Yet.
I've really enjoyed getting to use my Kindle, and I've been amazed by the amount of free content available--I have hundreds of items, but I've only paid for a few of them. There are definitely some titles I want to buy for my Kindle in the coming months, but I really appreciate that its developers were open to allowing users to upload oodles of free content! I also really enjoy all the new goodies I keep discovering the more I use it (latest discovery is a free Kindle version of Minesweeper and other games). 


  1. I should add that you can get free books from a lot of other places too: there is a whole list at this link from the Kindle Store:

  2. Hi, Julia!

    I'm glad to hear that you are so happy with your Kindle purchase! I'd just like to point out here that many of the features you mention are available on other e-readers as well. I have a Nook, and I've been very happy with its functionality (it even has page numbers!). The only thing I am not sure about is blog subscription, as I have never used my Nook for that purpose.

    Hopefully, Amazon will soon enable the Kindle to read epub books (which is what my public library has available), as that is the main reason I went with the Nook.

  3. Hi Julia. The fact that Kindle didn't support epub was one of the deciding factors in my purchase decision also. I like being able to temporarily swap ebooks with friends and download from my library--as well as create txt files with quotes for my writing. (went with Sony PRS650)

    Kindle needs to open its format to other file types before it loses part of its market.
    Cheers! LT

  4. Thanks for both of your comments!
    Courtney: from my own experience (although I could be wrong) I haven't found a way to publish blogs on the Nook. I checked a few months ago but did not find any information about it.
    LT: I haven't had any experience with the Sony, although those both are good features (as are Courtney's page numbers). I agree that the Kindle should allow for more file types, although I *think* that they've entered into an agreement to allow temporary e-book swapping. Also, thanks for the link to your blog, I look forward to checking it out!