How a college prof. is using his Kindle 2
I'm not a gadgeteer, but the Kindle 2 has been practical for me.
One of the things professors do is read--a lot of stuff, and regularly. So anytime somebody presumes to offer a new means of reading, it seems reasonable to make a quick assessment of whether that new means would be helpful. When the Kindle 1 first came out, I was fortunate enough to have a friendly, fellow prof. show me his model, and do so right before he took a big over-seas trip. Since he didn't want to pack lots of books, and then later be forced to lug them around the world, buying a Kindle 1 made good sense. (He's eventually sold the unit, however, after the trip, even though he got good use out of it.) I played with the Kindle 1 for all of about five minutes, found it intriguing, but at that time decided it too costly for the hundreds of dollars investment.
Then, of course, the next version, the Kindle 2, came out. It was thinner, and when compared with the earlier model, their keyboards and their navigation buttons are markedly different, in a good way according to my tapping intuitions. My friend's Kindle 1 used a scroll wheel and a weird selector column located above that scroll wheel, but the Kindle 2 did away with that and used a five-way navigation joystick instead, which sat nice and close to the 'menu' and 'back' buttons. Turns out that the joystick makes my thumb a little sore after a while, but it's been working great for me overall.
The Kindle 2 rests in the hands pretty easily also, and I used to get (what I called) "scholar's cramp" from holding a book or journal open too long with one hand while in my standard reading stance. In some ways, though, that problem was a major motivator for me to try the Kindle. I got tired of juggling journal articles, anyway, and many of the academic journals are now formatted to .PDF files, which our library offers in spades through its many scholarly databases. But in using the whole .PDF angle is wherein I really found that the Kindle was helpful.
As any owner knows, the Kindle allows for easy highlighting and annotating of text, thus one can excerpt all the annotations and notes one makes as s/he goes along in the article. (They're all saved to a text file.) I had students search around in the academic databases for articles they wanted to read, and then submit those articles to me by email or by some other link-to method we could all use. Then, we would all download the articles; they would print them, but I would stick them on my Kindle. (After all, it was a new device, so I was anxious to use it when possible.)
I quickly found that it was basically effortless to make fill-in-the-blank handouts for students to use while working through the reading of the articles. Sometimes I'd get the students together in small groups of 3-5, and they'd fill out these handouts, thus assuring me that they've at least surveyed the article. Or, at other times, I could give a hand-out to them before they read the article, and they could fill it out and hand it back the next day as a low-stress way of showing me they'd worked through the essential issues in the essay.
Naturally, all the straightforward advantages of reading books, news media, and other standard fare are still great, but the ability to manufacture hand-outs in such an easy manner was something I'd not anticipated. I also found that since the Kindle 2 is so easily transported from place to place, I was actually almost two weeks ahead in my homework reading load, since I'd grab 15 minutes here and there of reading on the Kindle (and, of course, marking the text along the way.)
I have not tried to use it from the lectern as a way of moving through my lecture material, since I'd gotten in the habit of not using notes a while back. (I tended to read them, which is hardly interesting for me, much less to students.). But I did find it handy to use my highlighted text as a way of reminding me of the things I wanted to talk about when they arose in journal articles. And, too, the ability to quickly search for an exact text phrase in an article came in handy more than once.
Again, the real time advantage seems to lie in the mark-as-you go method of reading the assigned articles. The only downside is that the keyboard, while adequate, is not comfortable to use for typing anything over just a dozen words or so. But I think that's been good, overall; since, I don't get bogged-down commenting, but instead spend the bulk of time actually reading. If students have as good experiences with usage as have I, then some academic version for them will probably be fairly successful in short order.