Kindle DX: Not ready for Academic users

Picture1I ‘m a professor of environmental science at UMBC and have been experimenting with Amazon’s Kindle DX since Friday (June 12, 2009). When the Kindle DX was first announced in May, I was very excited by the possibility of reading journal articles and other materials in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format on an e-reader, and the DX promised to do the trick. So I ordered one as soon as it was announced. I avoid printing pdfs to save paper and so I usually just read them on my computer screen, but this is really hard on the eyes and just not the best way to have a good read. Now, with the Kindle DX in hand, I’ve had a chance to see whether my dreams would come true.

In a nutshell, the Kindle DX truly has the potential to be a powerful and ubiquitous academic tool- it really is possible to read academic PDFs on this device- the mainstay of academic work.

But I must emphasize the word “potential”!

There are a variety of issues that have been highlighted in other reviews of the Kindle DX (lack of a touch screen, wifi/bluetooth, zooming of pdfs, etc.), and these degrade the academic utility of the DX. However, there is one huge barrier to the widespread adoption of the Kindle DX by upper level undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs and professors: the Kindle offers no way to organize the thousands of journal article and book chapter PDFs that are the mainstay of academic work. The Kindle DX offers only an endless list of thousands of titles or authors, often incorrectly scanned from the pdfs and very slow to browse (e-ink is slow!). There is no way to use folders, pages of tags or any other kind of efficient and effective way to manage the large numbers of academic pdfs that are required to make a “paperless” academic workplace. Searching for text works somewhat, but is hindered by a really terrible keyboard, which would not be a problem if a touch screen or effective document organizing method were part of the Kindle.

This is a sad thing- in so many ways the Kindle DX has what it takes to revolutionize reading on campus: it has a very nice screen and it is easy to load and read pdfs on the device. Even though it is a bit expensive, it is so close to being a functional reader for the documents most used by academics.

Regretfully, if no workaround for org
anizing pdfs on the Kindle becomes available (I’ve emailed Amazon about this- still awaiting a reply), I’ll just have to return the Kindle DX – it just can’t do what it needs to do to justify owning it.

Amazon- are you listening?

A very useful review: CNET: Amazon Kindle DX
See also: NY Times Review of the Kindle DX

The Kindle DX: Not ready for prime time, but so close!