Amazon Kindle as a Research Tool
At this point, I am about two weeks into my first semester of PhD. And if I did not love my amazon kindle before – of course, I did – I reallylove it now. I must recommend that anyone doing academic research get a kindle, especially grad students.
Here are some kindle tricks that I find very, very useful for research:
Store my entire kindle library on one machine: this, of course, is self-explanatory. But I love the fact that I can buy a book for the kindle (or download a public domain site, or store PDF files) on my machine to about 1,000
Make and keep track of notes and markings: Like a regular book, I can make notes and highlights. But unlike a regular book, I never have to flip through pages and pages to find all of my highlights and notes. I can press “see my notes and markings” and I can see all of them lined up.
Search for any word anywhere in any book: For any book on my kindle, I can search for any word that appears in it, like an index but better. Once, for instance, I was looking for a quote I didn’t think to highlight. I remembered, however, one of the words I know had been used in the sentences (a word distinct enough that it wasn’t used very much in the book.) I searched the word and found the quote very quickly.
Download PDFs and other course readings to my kindle: My professors often give us PDFs to read, or want us to read journal articles. If it is a Word document (.doc) , I can upload it directly to the kindle via a USB port. If it is PDF file, I can convert it to kindle format (.azw) by e-mailing the document to a specially assigned kindle e-mail account (xxxxxxxxx.free.kindle.com), and the document is reformatted in a matter of minutes and sent back to me. I then download it to my kindle via a USB port. That way, I can read the documents from my kindle.
Now, lest people believe I am simply a kindle cheerleader, here are the two things I really don’t like about the kindle as a research tool.
Kindle operates on location numbers rather than page numbers: I understand why amazon uses location numbers rather than page numbers. With an option to increase/decrease the size of text, page numbers would make the reading awkward (though there have to be ways to address this problem). But not having page numbers means that it is a hugepain in the @$$ to (a) find out where the rest of the class is when they are reading from a certain page number (I generally have to simply listen to others read rather than read myself); and (b) there is, to date, no good way to cite kindle books in research papers. One can certainly cite a location number, but it would be impossible for someone to find this without owning a kindle first. This is a huge, huge drawback for amazon if they hope to penetrate the academic market!!
All in all, though, I find the kindle to be an amazing research tool. I have recommended it to others because it is so convenient for academic research.