For Amazon however, Big Kindle will still be giggled over by those in Cupertino. Will the Apple tablet be any better? It is certain to have a far better form factor. Whether it will be expressly suited to delivering educational content in a dynamic and forward thinking manner remains to be seen. That is certainly not within the capabilities of Big Kindle.
Several universities participated in the launch of Big Kindle and the hype around the launch hid a troubling question; namely, why these schools were in-bed with the retailer at all? On a list serve I questioned,
Don't the participating universities appear to be endorsing a hardware platform (not to mention a specific retail channel). You could argue (possibly strongly) that allowing the bookstore to be managed by B&N or Follett or even the adoption of college textbooks themselves to be little different; however, doesn’t the changed paradigm suggest an opportunity to operate on a more open field of play or is this more of the same leading to more student frustration, higher prices and deadened innovation in education?In other words, why would the universities want to continue the (essentially) old way of doing business when most observers believe we are on the cusp of a renaissance in educational learning. The Kindle doesn't do multimedia, it doesn't do color and most importantly it doesn't do networking because the Kindle is a closed system. This is a short sighted collaboration between schools and Amazon that doesn't really suggest any major change.
As I thought about the Big Kindle development it struck me that there could still be a more interesting development. Content media companies suddenly developing a hardware delivery platform are growing like weeds from NewsCorp to Hearst, and there could be an opportunity for collaboration between the news/magazine world and education. What if CourseSmart or Safari joined one of these efforts? That would be a far more interesting and potentially game changing development than selling text book content on a Big Kindle. By definition, the hardware to support a digital magazine will be capable of all the aspects necessary in delivering a changed educational experience.
Will that happen? As it turns out some of the partners involved in CourseSmart are also participating in the Big Kindle roll out; but, what is CourseSmart if it isn't a new way to deliver educational materials to learners? That doesn't seem to be what students will be getting with Big Kindle. There may be all kinds of reasons why CourseSmart (or even an publisher themselves) won't be launching a device: The predominant reason may be the amount of print revenue tied to Amazon, and therefore from my perspective Big Kindle and education is more about marketing hype than anything fundamental. We await more developments with keen interest.