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August 7, 2011 7:44 PM   Subscribe

What are textbooks actually like on the Kindle?

So, I'm buying books for my next semester of college, and I need a textbook that has a Kindle version. The book is about 165 dollars, the Kindle edition is about 130. It's a class about advertising.

I have no idea what a textbook is like on a Kindle. I can "read the first chapter for free" but it's on my computer, in color, and generally nothing like what reading it on a Kindle would be like.

I know different books will have different features and stuff, but I'm curious what the experience of using a Kindle for college textbooks is like. Is there a disadvantage at all? Is it worth the 35 bucks to get the book? How are diagrams and pictures handled?

If anyone has any direct experience, the book is Advertising & IMC by Moriarty, Mitchell and Wells.
posted by papayaninja to Education (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: For what it's worth, I just saw the option to send a sample to my Kindle, but I don't have Whispernet at my house, so it'll have to wait until tomorrow. And I still don't have the physical thing to compare, so the question still stands.
posted by papayaninja at 7:46 PM on August 7, 2011

The CK foundation textbooks are free on Kindle, so you can check out one example. I feel like, for me, a $35 differential might not be enough to give up the hard copy, but I'm a person who likes writing notes in books and tends to keep textbooks rather than sell them back.

That said, I've been reading some of the CK foundation textbooks for fun and they're totally serviceable, plus you do have the bonus of taking notes on the Kindle that you can export into other files, etc.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:57 PM on August 7, 2011

It depends on how you use the book. I tried to read a few journal articles on the Kindle and gave up, because it would not allow me to skip sections/pages quickly. I suspect an advertising textbook would be even worse since most of them have all those boxes, notes, graphics and whatnot.

I just downloaded the free chapter on my Kindle, let me know if you want to take a look at it.
posted by prenominal at 8:14 PM on August 7, 2011

If you don't mind the sketchy aspect of it, you can buy an instructor's evaluation copy on abebooks.com for about $125. Amazon also sells a loose-leaf version (student value edition!) that is unbound, apparently with hole punches so it can fit in a 3-ring binder, for $135.

God I hate textbook companies.
posted by Maxwell_Smart at 8:30 PM on August 7, 2011

I have no experience with that type of textbook specifically, but I did buy a medical textbook on Kindle, and was frustrated with it because there was no feature allowing me to zoom in to look at figures (it makes your fingers itch for a touch screen, as much as I love my Kindle!). You can look at the figures but if there are fine details, you may have problems.

For me there were electrocardiograms and it was impossible for me to read/interpret the electrocardiograms using the Kindle screen.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:40 PM on August 7, 2011

You can still get a sample without whispernet- you download it onto your computer and then use the USB to transfer onto your kindle.
posted by bearette at 8:40 PM on August 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

I used a Kindle DX as part of the Kindle in the classroom program last year, and it was an interesting experience. I wouldn't recommend it - even my professor declined to participate again the following year because she found that the class as a whole had a harder time with the material on Kindles than print books. Here are some of the reasons why:

Physical memory: a lot of learning has to do with remembering roughly where in the book and where on the page a certain piece of information was. We lost that entirely with the Kindle.

Highlighting and note-taking: Yes, the Kindle technically has both of these features. They suck. They work to actually make the note or the highlight, but going back to reference them is a giant pain.

Format: Textbook companies were not (in 2010) making as much of an effort as trade book companies to format the books properly for e-books. This made sidebars, images, graphs, chapter headings, and a lot of other things show up as really distracting to the reading. If I were considering using ebooks for textbooks again, I would be checking the formatting of every single book and making sure that they are formatted for reading on an ebook device and not just a scan of the physical print edition.

FWIW, I like ebooks a lot and most of my pleasure reading is done on an ereader. But I find that, while I read about 20% faster, my recall of books I read as ebooks is much, much worse than those I read as print books. For that reason alone, I'd stick with print books for a classroom experience.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 8:49 PM on August 7, 2011 [8 favorites]

quality of graphics are going to vary with the book file itself. Peanut_mcgillicuty has nailed several of the problems. I too love my Kindle for general reading, but if I were using text books, I'd have the same reservations.
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:56 PM on August 7, 2011

Are your textbooks graphics/images heavy or are they text heavy? I'm doing my dissertation work primarily on the kindle and I adore it. Unlike peanut_mcgillicuty, I think the notetaking and highlighting feature are beyond helpful.

In fact, there's an easy way to convert the notes on the kindle (a text file called My Clippings) to an excel spreadsheet or access database. That's how I've been taking almost all of my notes for my dissertation work and the previous work I've done for my classes prior to this.

I have had some difficulty with one or two books on architecture (my diss is on historic preservation and adaptive reuse) being a little too image heavy for the kindle, but for those I just put them on my pc and use the Kindle for PC app. It works like a dream and you can see the color pictures. There is the Kindle Textbook Rental but sadly yours doesn't seem to be available via rental.
posted by teleri025 at 9:16 PM on August 7, 2011

I haven't used any textbooks on the Kindle but something you should keep in mind is that if you paid the extra $35 for the physical book, you could almost certainly make at least that much back, if not more, by selling the book when you're done with the course, provided it's not something you'll want to keep. But you obviously can't resell a kindle book.
posted by katyggls at 10:23 PM on August 7, 2011

In my experience reference books don't work well on the Kindle. The issue is being able to flip quickly through the book to find a page. Mine is a couple of years old now and the page drawing was very sluggish and interface didn't help. It worked fine for a pleasure reading where you're just stepping through a page at a time but making large moves within the text is painful.

The Kindle app on the iPad is much, much better as the touch screen allows you flip pages much more quickly and it has the page slider to make larger jumps. I don't know if there's a Kindle app for Android but I'd guess they have something similar.
posted by Awfki at 4:22 AM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've had some experience with physics and calculus books in PDF format on my Kindle. (DX, which is really handy for screen size). It worked well enough, though mainly for specific reference rather than flipping through. Reading is good, reference is good, flipping between indistinct pages, not so good.
posted by CrystalDave at 4:58 AM on August 8, 2011

If it's anything like my marketing and advertising books were, no way. The cut-outs and charts and photos took up half the book, easily.
posted by SMPA at 5:23 AM on August 8, 2011

I'm a big Kindle evangelist, but the only textbooks I'd want to read on it would be stuff in the humanities — I mean, "textbooks" that are basically just collections of plain-text articles.

The sluggish page drawing has gotten better, and the highlighting feature gets easy enough to use with a little practice, but like everyone else is saying, tables and graphics just don't show up well, and flipping back and forth to e.g. a glossary or a reference page in the back of the book is too awkward.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:26 AM on August 8, 2011

I'd agree that if you don't want to keep the book, you can certainly get more than $35 back by reselling it. I have a Kindle that I love for reading fiction, but I find reading journal papers and textbooks mostly frustrating because I can't flip around the same way as in a book.
posted by oranger at 7:53 AM on August 8, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! I'm going to buy the physical book, mainly for the sell-back potential and for what everyone says about graphs and pictures and whatnot.
posted by papayaninja at 10:58 AM on August 8, 2011

Wow, that text has horrible reviews. You might want to start by seeing if your university library has reference editions that you could use instead. Also, Alibris has international versions for much less. Apparently some of the exercises are slightly different, but you could use the library reference text if your professor assigns those.

As a student myself, I do everything I can to avoid paying outrageous textbook fees. The library and university bulletin boards are good places to start, as are study groups. I only bought one third of my required texts last year, and they were the ones I wanted to keep.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:07 AM on August 8, 2011

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