Kindle for school!

Last November I received a Kindle as a birthday present.  I wasn’t sure if I really wanted one when I first got it and actually considered swapping it for a Nook.  I ultimately decided to go with the Kindle because, even though I can’t borrow books from the library with it, it felt less “buggy” and I knew that some of the features that made the Nook a strong competitor were being made available soon (by February) on the Kindle.  (This includes “real” page numbers and the ability to borrow and lend books from and to other Kindle users.)

Like most e-reader users I know, I now think of my Kindle as a great alternative to carrying around a heavy book or trilogy, but not a full replacement for physical books.  It is possible to love both!  I also love how much easier the e-ink is on my eyes than staring at a computer screen for hours.

But the problem is that these nifty features didn’t seem readily compatible with Library School.  For one, none of the required books for any of my classes so far have been available in any sort of e-format, Kindle or otherwise.  Second, I’d long ago given up on trying to read assignments on the computer because the benefit of saving paper didn’t outweigh the benefit of saving my vision, especially since we do get 400 free print pages each semester, or the ability to quickly take notes on paper. (I have very seriously committed to recycling and saving my print outs to compensate for this.)

This semester, I’ve actually started using some of the extra features and complementary online tools to maximize my Kindle’s potential as a tool to keep up with my class reading assignments and shorter diversions (see Jason’s post below about the dangers of picking up full-text-too-good-to-put-down books during finals).

The first feature I use is my @free.kindle.com address to convert files to the .azw format.  While I can read a PDF on a Kindle without having to convert the file, I can’t use any of the highlighting and note-taking features.  I also generally find it awkward to zoom in on a PDF on a 6-inch screen.  With my @free.kindle.com address, I can email myself assigned readings as attachments to be converted, for free, to the .azw format so I can use all the same features I have with any e-book.  I then store these readings in a Collection folder on my Kindle home screen.  So now I can save paper, my vision, and my back from having to carry that big folder we all compile each semester.

I’ve also combined my Kindle email address with ReadItLater.com and calibre.  ReadItLater.com is similar to Instatpaper.com; both sites allow you to save online articles, stripped away of any ads or other screen “noise”, in one place.  You can then sync your account with a mobile device so you can read your articles on-the-go, even when you don’t have service or access to Wi-Fi.  calibre is free, open-source software that does tons of nifty things with e-books and e-readers.  Among those things is the ability to sync my ReadItLater account with my Kindle through my @free.kindle.com address.  So now, as long as I remember to sync my Kindle with calibre, I can use my Kindle to read my online-dailies instead of having to squint through the teeny-tiny text on my iPhone screen or the harsh computer monitor.

So if you’re considering an e-reader, I say go for it!  You can still make the most of your e-reader for school, even while we wait for the publishers of Library School texts to decide to make some of those (very heavy) books available in e-book format…

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