The EDU mood lately has not been kind to the Kindle. It's all "iPad this" and "iPad that". In comparison to the iPad, the Kindle is: bad for taking notes; bad for marking up text; incapable of surfing the web; incapable of displaying video….the list goes on.
How can the Kindle, and Amazon, get its EDU Mojo back?
Remove DRM: DRM will, in the end, decide the Kindle's fate. At some point, book buyers (like me) will stop buying digital books from Amazon if we can only read our books on Amazon's e-readers. We will want choice. We will want to have confidence that our books will work on whatever devices we own in the future.
Support EPUB: The Kindle's value as a reading platform decreases as the universe of digital book sellers increase. The Kindle is less valuable, less useful, if I can only read Amazon purchased books. I want to be able to purchase books from Google and from Barnes & Noble.
Enable and Encourage Sharing: The long tail of book sales depends, more than other media, on word of mouth. A book that is lent will result in many books that are purchased. Book lending might not be in the interest of the few publishing superstars, but for everyone else (and almost all nonfiction writers) locking down book lending hurts their economic position. Authors, editors and publishers should recognize that book lending is in their self-interest, and figure out how to enable and support Amazon (and the other e-book providers) in their ability to lend e-books.
Partner with Digital Coursepack Providers: The XanEDU's, StudyNet's, and Symtext's of the world are investing their resources in iPad apps, with Kindle version perhaps available but not seen as a huge value-add. This could change overnight if Amazon put its weight behind offering Kindle versions of textbooks by the chapter, combined with journal, magazine and newspaper articles. A partnership with XanEDU, StudyNet, or Symtext would be necessary, as I these companies know the higher ed markets and have built up skills in copyright clearance. What these companies lack is Amazon's distribution platform. Amazon's scale could drive down prices, and Amazon's technology skills could insure high quality Kindle versions of the coursepacks (complemented by both iPad app version and paper copies).
Bundle E-Books with Audiobooks: Amazon is missing a huge opportunity to leverage their ownership of Audible by bundling e-books and audiobooks. Every time I buy an Audible book, Amazon should provide a Kindle version (and vice-versa). Amazon should deliver technology that synchs the audiobook to the e-book, so readers are always on the correct page.
Build Library Partnerships: Amazon's failure to build partnerships with libraries is amazingly shortsighted. Today's book borrowers are tomorrow's book buyers. The library is where the habit of reading can be learned. Continue to put up roadblocks for digital books (both e-books and audiobooks) and watch potential future readers (and book buyers) never develop the reading habit. The danger of shutting out libraries as books transition from paper to digital is that the book economy will become ever more hits dependent. Libraries nurture the long tail of books. A healthy book economy does not look like the book aisle at Walmart.
Note that none of these suggestions requires any technological breakthrough. Amazon could make all of these ideas a reality today. The advantage Amazon has is the Amazon.com website, and its currently unparalleled book buying experience. This advantage, however, could erode - particularly as Google and Apple improve they're' e-book services, and Barnes and Noble figures out its business (by perhaps merging with Borders or being acquired by a major publisher or something).
Is Amazon listening?