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Kindle disappoints at Darden

Darden’s Kindle experiment is not quite over but the verdict is already in: Most students prefer not to use the electronic reading devices in the B-school classroom.

Nonetheless, the trial was informative. “We learned a lot and are much more prepared as a top tier business school to face the complex challenges of digital content distribution for all future Darden students.’’ says Michael Koenig, Darden’s director of MBA operations, who initially contacted Amazon about the pilot project.

The concern with the electronic reading devices is that they are too rigid for use in the fast-paced classrooms of a business school. “You must be highly engaged in the classroom every day,’’ says Koenig, and apparently the Kindle is “not flexible enough. … You can’t move between pages, documents, charts and graphs simply or easily enough.’’

The Kindle DX was given to a randomly selected but representative group of 62 first year students as an alternative to the traditional paper business cases, articles and textbooks. The project was initiated to test an eBook Reader in order to help students prepare more easily for classes and to help the Darden School continue to track toward its ambitious environmental sustainability goals. Darden was one of seven schools selected for the program and the first to launch last fall.

Koenig learned of the dissatisfaction from a mid-term survey that concluded with two key questions: Would you recommend the Kindle DX to an incoming Darden MBA student? A total of 75 to 80 percent answered “no,” says Koenig.

The other survey question asked Kindle-using students: Would you recommend the Kindle DX to an incoming MBA student as a personal reading device? A total of 90 to 95 percent said “yes,” says Koenig.

“What that says to me is that Amazon created a very well-designed consumer device for purchasing and reading digital books, magazines and newspapers,’’ says Koenig. However, it seems not to be ready yet for prime time in the highly engaged MBA classrooms.

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