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Why the Kindle Keyboard is now the best Kindle for students

favicon Amazon announced its new Kindle Paperwhite last week, and many people are crazy excited about getting their hands on one. (It ships Oct. 1.)

I plan on getting one, too, but it’s pretty clear that the Paperwhite will not be the best Kindle for students and teachers.

That title goes to the Kindle Keyboard.

Hey, you say, isn’t that a really old model? Why yes, it is. In fact, what was first called the Kindle 3 came out in 2010, an eternity ago in tech years.

But I still recommend the Kindle Keyboard as the one to get if you’re a teacher, and here are the two reasons why:

1. The Kindle Touch no longer exists. I used to recommend the Kindle Touch for the classroom. After all, students like touch screens. But the Paperwhite replaces the Touch. And the Paperwhite, despite its many strengths, has one huge problem.

2. The Kindle Paperwhite doesn’t have speakers. To save money, Amazon decided to take speakers off the new Kindle. This means that the Paperwhite doesn’t have the popular text-to-speech feature. This is fine for many readers, but it’s not OK for students who like audio support. I once thought that only students with IEPs would benefit from text-to-speech, but my experience has shown that all students appreciate the feature, especially with challenging texts. One student last year ripped through Pride and Prejudice, but only when she read the book with TTS support.

And that’s it! With the Kindle Touch being discontinued, and with the new Kindle Paperwhite lacking speakers and text-to-speech capability, the Kindle Keyboard is left as the best Kindle for students.

Even though some students may scoff at the physical keyboard and want something more modern, the Kindle Keyboard is still a sleek-enough device that will attract readers.

More important, the Kindle Keyboard is the most powerful device that is dedicated to reading. Sure, I’m tempted to move toward the Google Nexus 7, but that’s for another post, and besides, one of the best things about e-readers is that all you can do on them is read.

And there’s nothing wrong with that! favicon


  1. Susan

    Mark, lazyweb question here for you to clarify: which Kindle models (across ALL of history) are (1) reading-focused & (2) TTS supported? Is it ONLY the Kindle Keyboard? Just curious. &, while I’m being too lazy to Google, what does IEP stand for? Thanks!

    • Mark Isero

      Hi Susan! Thank you for the questions.

      Across ALL of history: The Kindle 1 has speakers but no TTS, the Kindle 2 and Kindle Keyboard have speakers and TTS, the Kindle Touch has both (but the speakers are not as loud, and the TTS requires several extra taps), the $79 (now $69) Kindle has no speakers and no TTS, and neither does the new Paperwhite. Not sure about the Kindle DX. (I hope I’m correct with this info.)

      And sorry about the education jargon. IEP stands for “individualized education program.” It’s what students with learning disabilities/differences get by law to support their learning.

      What are you thinking of doing with all this Kindle knowledge, Susan?

  2. Susan

    So, in order of preference:
    Kindle Keyboard
    Kindle 2
    Kindle Touch

    (although I understand you won’t say no to any Kindle!)

    What I find interesting is you don’t want a fancy Kindle, because it will distract your students. And you need TTS to help your students learn. I wonder if the Kindle design team even lists teachers like you as a use case? Perhaps not, because you are an outlier, but I would LOVE to know that the conversation has been had.

    On that note, I just searched Twitter. Check out @karthur!

  3. Mark Isero

    You’re the best, Susan. No, I won’t say no to any Kindle, though the original Kindle is a little strange-looking for students (though I find them cute), and the Kindle DX is enormous (larger than the iPad). But remember that Amazon is trying to discontinue the Kindle Touch (and replace it with the Paperwhite).

    I think students should have two devices: a dedicated reading device (like a Kindle) and a dedicated everything-else device (maybe a Chromebook, once they get better, or else a Nexus 7, once Google figures out a keyboard option). Because computers/tablets are too expensive (and require wireless, which most public schools don’t support), and because I care about reading, I’m moving on Kindles first. (And yes, my experience is that no deep, sustained reading occurs on computers/tablets.)

    I don’t need TTS, but I prefer it. I like it, too, when commuting in the car! 🙂

    I’ll check out @karthur — thank you. I was talking — for about a minute — with the Kindle folks a year or so ago, but I didn’t get too far. Rumors suggest that Barnes and Noble actually does a better job with real teachers, librarians, and schools. But I’ve already been sucked into the Amazon ecosystem.

Please share your brilliant insights!