One of the new pupils at Princeton this fall will be a wireless-friendly bookworm that weighs all of 10 ounces. I wonder whether it will pledge to join a fraternity or sorority.
Amazon.com's (Nasdaq: AMZN ) Kindle is making Ivy League waves this year. Princeton's decision to offer some textbooks in digital form on Amazon's e-book reader, as reported last week by Christian Science Monitor, isn't breaking new ground. Princeton joins Yale, Oxford, and the University of California in offering students a lighter load by replacing conventional textbooks with a lightweight digital alternative.
However, in a refreshing nod of favoritism, Princeton University Press will offer Yale professor Robert Shiller's new economics book to Kindle readers two weeks ahead of the print edition.
The Kindle isn't perfect. Now that I've had one for a month, I've bumped up against a few shortcomings. One of my biggest disappointments in subscribing to the Kindle version of Investor's Business Daily is that it lacks the charts, stock screens, and market tables that make the print edition so compelling.
On the flipside, I have far more raves than rants. The interface is far more intuitive than I thought it would be. It feels good in my hands, and it's mercifully kind on my eyes.
I'm not entirely sure whether it will be as easy to use in a classroom setting when others are leafing through their physical texts to find a particular passage, but the Kindle's ability to add notes to the actual text on the margins will be a welcome feature on campus.
Amazon has been setting itself apart from rival Sony's (NYSE: SNE ) eReader. It has been promoting the Kindle aggressively on its site since the device's November launch. It also offers up a writer-friendly content platform, populating its Kindle Store with many exclusive titles.
Hooking up with trendsetting universities can only help, especially as other schools follow suit. If a Kindle is a college freshman's connection to her hometown newspaper, favorite blogs, and a few course books, how can it not become a popular campus appliance?
An Ivy League inroad isn't a sure path to success, though. Music subscription service provider Napster (Nasdaq: NAPS ) has struggled, despite striking music-streaming deals through various universities. However, in that regard, Napster has been battling rampant music piracy and market leader Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) successful a la carte approach to digital music. The Kindle really is superior to bulky textbooks in many ways, especially for the publishers, who don't have printing costs to tackle or inventory levels to maintain.
Learn well, Kindle. Don't let the hazing get to your screen.
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