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Kindle Failed Tests at Several Colleges. Will iPads Do Better?

Reed College plans to do a formal experiment with iPads by loading the devices with class readings and giving them to students  to see how they compare with traditional textbooks.

Reed was one of seven campuses to run a similar experiment with Kindles in partnership with Amazon—and students largely gave that device a failing grade. Now some of the same campuses plan to try the test with Apple’s iPad, and the tough question is whether this device passes.

“We are going to—to the extent that we can—make the iPad study as parallel to the Kindle DX study as possible,” said Martin D. Ringle, chief technology officer at Reed College, in an interview. “If I were to predict, I would say that the results are going to be dramatically different and much better—and they’re going to point the way to what role this technology is going to play in higher education.”

But what if print beats even Apple’s tablet for ease of use in note taking and highlighting? The Kindle project was expected to be a huge success, but the devices proved to be an unexpected flop. Students, it turns out, are tough customers when it comes to e-books, so many professors, administrators, and industry leaders will be eagerly awaiting reports from the iPad studies.

In other iPad news:

• The University of Maryland at College Park’s Digital Cultures and Creativity program announced today that it will give iPads to incoming students in the program in the fall, as part of the university’s Mobility Initiative.

• North Carolina State University’s library purchased 30 iPads that officials are lending to students for four-hour periods. The goal is to let students give them a “test drive,” said Mick Kulikowski, a university spokesman.

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