Imagine taking all of your textbooks to class every day, highlighting important sections the teacher implies will be on the next test, reading the latest issue of the New York Times and listening to your favorite music. Picture all of this contained on one small device approximately the size of a paperback book. Welcome to the world of the electronic reader, the latest amazing gadget to hit the market.
Sony introduced the e-Reader several years ago which allowed the user to download a book from an Internet store to their computer and then transfer the book to the e-Reader. Amazon introduced the Kindle in 2007, which features “Whispernet” technology that permits the user to skip the downloading to the computer and send the book straight to the device using the same network as Blackberry phones. Barnes and Noble debuted the “nook” this week, another player in the e-book competition. The “nook” is similar to the Kindle in that it uses AT&T’s network to download books instantly, in this case from the Barnes and Noble Internet store. This reader features a touch screen and extremely long battery life.
Why are these high tech gadgets important to college students? It is possible that someday in the not so distant future, textbooks will be exclusively on e-readers and teachers will send assignments directly to students’ Kindles or “nooks”. Paper textbooks may be as rare as 8-track tape players and nearly as obsolete. These readers may completely change the face of higher education as they provide an ideal forum for holding vast amounts of information in a portable form. As new generations of the readers are released, they have more features than the last model and usually feature a lower price. Although still out of reach of most college student’s budgets, e-readers are becoming more affordable each year and may eventually become as common as calculators in student’s backpacks.
The Kindle by Amazon and the Sony e-Reader are the best known e-readers but there are others currently on the market with many more in the development stage. As more devices reach the market, prices will continue to fall as the range of features increase. Competition can only improve the options among e-readers and ensure their place in higher education.