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kindle DX StudentAmazon announced the new Kindle DX just about a week ago. There’s been a lot of talk in the blogosphere and in traditional media about whether the Kindle DX works for students. Most of the feedback has been something along the lines of: its too expensive, students resell textbooks – can’t do that on the Kindle (yet), no sharing of books, etc. Others have said no Color will limit the applications as a textbook reader.

The facts: there are no color readers coming out until at least late 2010 (or more likely sometime in 2011, if everything goes well). Therefore, if you are holding off on buying a Kindle DX because you need a reader in color, you will be waiting for a while.

Now for business schools specifically, why do I think the Kindle DX works very well?

1 ) Most business school textbooks are not overly reliant on Color – therefore a large portion if not all major textbooks will translate very easily to Kindle format: I expect most books to be available right at launch. This may also be backed by the fact that Darden was picked as one of the few schools piloting the reader in the fall.

2 ) Business school texts are expensive! – this will mean that the discount for the electronic versions of the books (in most cases in excess of 50%), will be particularly attractrive. B-school students buying the Kindle DX should see a pretty quick payback on the device based on these discounts.

3 ) Business school students tend to hang on to their textbooks. These books become a valuable resource to students after completing school. Therefore, the economics mentioned at the top from reselling, don’t apply as much here. This is a big plus since the Kindle DX allows you to keep a personal library of 3,300 textbooks in your hand at any time. In addition to this, Amazon will archive all your purchases in case you want to remove it from the device for additional space.

4 ) Case Studies: regardless of whether your school employs a teaching method that involves a large percentage of cases or a smaller percentage, MBA students will always run into a significant number of case studies that are good reference materials. The built in PDF reader on the new DX allows you to carry around thousands of cases and quickly access them with no unsightly piles of printed paper to lug around.

5 ) Homework/study groups: Study documents, papers, worksheets can easily be carried around for study group meetings, also works well for carrying around an email that you would otherwise have to print to take with you.

6 ) Business school students travel a lot: For travellers the Kindle DX is a great way to carry all of your books, cases, texts, reference material in a very small form factor, to read on planes, trains etc. This is a big plus and makes it particularly relavent for MBAs.

7 ) B School texts are huge (like most other textbooks): which translates easily into the Kindle format where you carry one .3 inch Kindle instead of a bunch of 2-3 inch textbooks.

8 ) Instant access to books: if someone in class or anywhere else mentions an interesting book to you, you don’t have to write the title down and look it up later, take out the kindle and buy it immediately with instant delivery over Whispernet. This will mean you will read a lot more books and some books also have their first chapter available as a free preview, you can take a look before you commit to buy. The wireless delivery works almost anywhere that Sprint has coverage, at no cost to you. The purchase cost includes the wireless access charges.

9 ) Not as big a plus but for b-school students who subscribe to the Wall Street Journal or other newspapers, the Kindle DX provides a perfect viewer for it. Every morning students can wake up to find the morning news delivered automatically to the Kindle.

10 ) Free wireless broadband access to a browser, this is not a huge plus since the browser included in the kindle is primitive but its still a good tool to quickly check your e-mail from class, and the browser software will only be improved over time.

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To address a couple of other commonly mentioned cons for the Kindle DX:

1 ) It’s too expensive:  In the context of the cost of textbooks and materials for business school and more generally the cost of an MBA, the cost of the Kindle DX ($489) is really not that much. Based on your book buying and textbook buying habits, you will likely make back this cost over a period of 6 months to 2 years.

2 ) You could buy a $3xx Netbook and do everything a Kindle does and more: This is just not true. The reason that the Kindle costs $489 to make and the reason why its so popular is the e-ink screen. This is a technology that recreates the paper reading experience almost identically. There is no back-light, there is no glare and provides a perfect paper like experience. Yes, you can do a lot of other things on a Netbook but it is not convenient and does not provide a good reading experience for books.

3 ) I’m going to wait for a competing reader (Plastic Logic, Sony, etc): The reader is nifty hardware, true. However, the success of a device like this, early on, is heavily dependent on the content available to it. Amazon has put all its muscle behind the Kindle with 275,000+ books already available for it. Unlike the 0.5 + million available for the Sony reader, most of the Kindle books are popular current books, not free/public domain books.  Therefore the Kindle is the one to get, at least from how the landscape looks right now. The other big advantage is the instant wireless delivery via Whispernet mentioned above, which is not available through any other competing device.

4 ) I need to see my textbooks in color: As mentioned above, unfortunately technology to support color e-ink is pretty far away. Optimistic forecasts put the technology as ready next year, but most likely will be 2011 at least.

To sum it up, I think the Kindle DX is perfect for business school students. If you agree or disagree, I would love to know why, please leave a comment below.

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If you are a prospective student and looking to apply for financial aid my advice is to apply as early as you can. Don’t wait to hear back from a school before you apply. The FAFSA (and CSS profile) can sometimes take some time to process and if there are unexpected hurdles (like the selective service issue that I ran into), applying early will allow you time to resolve these rather than putting your entire financial aid application on hold and running the risk of being pushed to the back of the line for financial aid at your school. The best time is as soon as you have enough information to complete your tax return, I think.

I wish I applied earlier, I wouldn’t be waiting 4-6 weeks for a Selective Service response if I had.

The GSB financial aid staff has been really helpful and nice, They’ve been helping me get over a couple of hurdles I ran into over the last couple of days. Fingers crossed!

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