Why Kindle Can’t Go to College

Amazon has been trying to peddle its Kindle as a natural for the classroom.  Rather than having to schlep tons of books around, and to offset the high cost of printed texts, it seems on the fact of it to be a good idea.  But it’s not an idea that’s really functional – without the ability to accurately represent the contents of a textbook, with graphics and color, and without the ability to write in the margins, it seemed it might be a while till the idea really caught on.  And yet, Amazon keeps giving the thing to colleges to try out.  This week the company suffered a major setback in these efforts when three of the universities doing a test drive of the device  agreed not to “purchase, recommend or promote the use of the Kindle DX” until they are fully usable by students who are blind.  While the device has a text-to-speech option, its menus are not, says the National Federation of the Blind “accessible to the blind…making it impossible for a blind user to purchase books from Amazon’s Kindle store, select a book to read, activate the text-to-speech feature, and use the advanced reading functions available…” The Department of Justice , which made the deals with the three schools, says that these agreements “underscore the importance of full and equal educational opportunities for everyone.”  While Amazon had no comment , they did say two years ago that they were working on an audible menu system that would make the Kindle usable for the visually impaired. And Kindle is not the only e-reader covered in the agreement – they all are.

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