Q: Will students and faculty participating in the pilot get a free reader?
A: Yes. All participating students and faculty will get a device that they may keep.
Q: I already own an e-reader. Can I take part in the pilot program?
A: The pilot program is using a reader that is not yet available for purchase. The reason for this is that the e-reader pilot was specifically focused on e-reserve readings, many of which require a larger screen than current devices have. If the pilot is successful, we may consider offering a broader test course that is not device-specific.
Update: June 10, 2009. The Kindle DX is released and shipped.
Q: What courses are taking part in the e-reader pilot?
A: Several courses are under review. This pilot is funded by a grant that has specific criteria for participating courses. The courses that will participate in the pilot will be announced as soon as course participants are notified, and course enrollments are completed.
Update: September 20, 2009: Courses have been selected. See the "Participants" section of this web site for details.
Q: How do I take notes on my reading using an e-reader?
A: The devices we reviewed all have the ability to bookmark, annotate, and highlight text. In the case of the Amazon device we are using in the trial, the notes you make using the device's keyboard are stored as .txt files on the reader. You can download these files and use another program on your computer to open, edit, and print them.
Update: May 28 2009. Amazon has announced a web-based interface that can be used to view user-entered annotations and highlights. The service works with notes already added to Kindle content. It can be seen at:
Q: Can I read things other than my course materials on an e-reader?
A: Yes. The leading e-readers have proprietary online stores where current books can be purchased. The Amazon.com site also offers subscriptions to newspapers and magazines that are automatically delivered to your Kindle. There are a number of sites that offer books in the public domain for free. These can be downloaded to most e-readers.
Q: Can I download my own files to an e-reader?
A: Yes. Most will support various text and document files, some image files, and several types of e-book formats. See the support page for your device for a list of compatible file types.
Q: What is the battery life of an e-reader?
A: the e-paper technology used to make e-readers does not emit light, and only uses power when the page is turned. When other extra features are disabled (wireless connectivity, built-in ambient reading lights, etc.) the devices can go for about a week on a single battery charge.
Q: Do e-readers work in other countries?
A: You can read the content already on your e-reader wherever you are. However, copyrighted material is usually only available from the country where the e-reader was purchased. The Amazon device we are using for this trial can only be purchased in the US. If your credit card's billing address and issuing bank is also from the US, you can buy content from Amazon.com when traveling in other countries. However you may need to download your new purchase using a USB cable if there is no Whispernet wireless network coverage where you are.
Update: October 22, 2009: A new version of the Kindle 2 is now available for purchase from the US Amazon store in 100 countries. The Whispernet wireless network is also supported in these countries. See www.amazon.com for details.
Q: In this time of severe economic constraints, why is Princeton spending money on this pilot?
A: The money to support this project ($30K) is coming from the High Meadows sustainability fund, a fund specifically endowed to support sustainability projects. None of the money is coming from Princeton’s operating budget, nor is any money being taken away from other projects or efforts to fund this pilot.
Last year, Princeton printed 50 million sheets of paper at the cost of $5 million. Over 10 million sheets were printed in student computing clusters, much of that generated by printing digitzed text. If, through the use of e-readers, we can cut down that printing by even 1%, we will have more than made up for what was spent on this pilot.
Q: What happens at the end of the pilot? Does Princeton intend to have all of its students use Kindles (or other e-readers)?
A: Princeton’s focus in this pilot is to determine to what extent e-readers can substitute for paper, both from a sustainability and a pedagogical perspective. At the end of the pilot, we will assess what effect, positive or negative, the readers have had both with respect to printing and with respect to the pedagogical goals of the participating faculty and students. That assessment will be made available publicly. Our hope is that Amazon, and others, will be able to use those results to design e-readers that can help Princeton and other institutions with respect to sustainability and pedagogy. Although Princeton does not, and will not, endorse any specific device, we hope that the pilot will help companies develop e-readers that are attractive to our students and faculty.