Posted by: Steven Harris | January 23, 2008

Kindle Fantasies

Today’s fantasies brought to you by the Amazon Kindle. The prior post about writerly books got me thinking about some specifics. This is all stuff that could be done right now with a Kindle. I doubt anybody is doing this, and the Kindle may not be the ideal device for these scenarios, but it might be worth an experiment of two.

  1. Creative writing workshop: 10 students in the class each have a Kindle. They all authorize one another and the instructor to send files to their Kindles. All email addresses can send files to all Kindles in the class. When each student has her turn to be “workshopped” by the class, she sends email, with her short story attached, to all the ten other Kindle email addresses (including the instructor): Steven.Harris@kindle.com, Mary.Smith@kindle.com, etc. She uses a distribution list to avoid sending it 10 times. All the classmates receive the file wirelessly from Amazon. They begin reading and annotating the story—line by line, some of them. The annotations are saved in the “my clippings” file on each Kindle. Here is the clunky part. Each student can use a USB cable to plug the Kindle into their computer. The “my clippings” file can then be dragged to the computer and opened with a word processor. It is a text file. Each note has information about the line in the story that is being annotated and then the text of the annotation itself. All the annotations in line order in one file. The students edit their notes for clarity and remove the personal invective (we hope) and then send it to the author’s Kindle (or perhaps to all members of the class—so everybody is seeing their response to the story). The instructor also writes a more lengthy critique. This she sends just to the author of each work, via the Kindle email address. Perhaps a little too much dependence on Amazon’s black box to convert the files, but easily accomplished. It is costing 10 cents for each of those file conversions through Amazon. I am not sure if there is a limit on the number of email addresses you can authorize to send to your Kindle. Doesn’t seem to be. After the class, of course, you would de-authorize all of those addresses. Non-university writing groups could operate the same way.
  2. General literature class: everybody in class has a Kindle. The instructor posts a reading list. Students are then required to connect to the Kindle store and purchase the books wirelessly. Lots of Penguin Classics, for example, are available. Students read like in the previous fantasy. They make annotations. Perhaps they send these to the instructor to demonstrate that they are making progress through the readings. The students also use their own annotations to begin writing papers. The papers are mailed to the instructors Kindle. His responses are mailed to theirs. Think of all the paper that is saved! Ha Ha! (Actually, not much of a believer in the paperless office.)
  3. Textual editing class: students find a text on the Internet: Project Gutenberg, University of Virginia E-text Center, etc. They send the original file to their own Kindle for conversion—to the instructors Kindle as well. They do their editorial work on their own computer. Kindle wouldn’t be adequate for that work. They send the edited file to the instructor. She now has the original and the edited version. Footnotes and other scholarly apparatus are not that effective on the Kindle. It might be a bit annoying: flipping back and forth to endnotes. Not so easy to compare the original and the edited version either.
  4. Graduate literature course: students are required to use materials from the library special collections and associated digital archives. The collections contain several interesting literary manuscripts. The students examine these actual documents in the library and they look carefully at the page images in the digital collection. Some of these will require extensive reading however. The library, during its digitizing process, has OCRed to works. Library staff actually take this text file and use the Mobipocket Creator to convert the file to a non-DRM Mobipocket file. This can be read on a Kindle. The Library posts these files in the electronic course reserve for the class, or to an open website. Students download the files and drag and drop them on their Kindle. They can now read and annotate the manuscript on their device. Assignments proceed apace as in the previous examples.

Responses

  1. I dig #4. We do a smidge (techy term) of on demand text reformatting/OCRing for students. I can see how the Kindle could help give such efforts legs…getting the text to people in yet another convenient location. Library provides collections and reformatting and even loan Kindles.

  2. Oh yeah. I like it David. Wheels turning…a whole Kindle-on-Demand kind of thing. Convert whatever they want to a Kindle-friendly format for downloading. Hell, even lend them the Kindle.

  3. Yep. Could be Kindle. All text uploaded and ready to go for pick up or delivery. Could be good ol’ txt, rft, or ocr…shoot, do’m all and put’m in a wirelessly accessible account for the students do w/ them what they will. I’d like to have a e-format feature for our book request service…order an book out of our collections and if you don’t want print, let us know as part of the order.


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