Kindle and Kindle Apps for Reading and Learning

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We’ve outlined some of the features of e-readers and e-reading apps in earlier posts about the Kindle, the Kobo and the Stanza app. The key benefit to using e-readers and apps is being able to customize the reading experience. You can read more about text-to-speech apps here and here. Amazon makes the whole e-reading process easy for the user by providing free apps, easy e-book purchases and downloads, and sometimes even free e-books.

A wide selection of Kindles is now available from Amazon – you can explore the many options they offer here. But you don’t need a Kindle in order to take advantage of its features. As I mentioned last week, there’s a Kindle reading app available for almost any device. 

What the Kindle and apps offer differs slightly depending on which device you’re using. The information that follows talks specifically about the Kindle Touch and the Kindle app for the PC. Watch next week for details about the Kindle app for the iPhone.

Kindle Touch

Of the devices I’ve mentioned, the Kindle Touch offers the easiest access to customizable features: highlighting, annotating and bookmarking; variable text size and type; searchability and dictionary look-up; the option of portrait or landscape view; and text-to-speech capability. 

On the Kindle Touch, all of these features are available as soon as you open an e-book. To highlight text, tap and hold then drag your finger to mark the text you want to select. When you lift your finger off the screen, you’ll be offered choices to highlight or add a note.

Tap on the top of the screen and options will appear that allow you to search the text, go to a location in the book or change the font size. To access additional options, simply tap the Menu box in the top right-hand corner of the screen. Here, you’ll be able to turn on text-to-speech, add or delete a bookmark, change to landscape mode and view the notes you’ve made. It’s a tidy bundle of options that makes it easier to read and review text and to outline writing assignments.

Kindle App for the PC

Nearly everything you can do on the Kindle Touch you can also do on the Kindle for PC. From a usability standpoint, the PC app is in some ways easier to manage than the actual Kindle. For example, we’re already used to navigating onscreen and mousing around until we find what we want. The mouse is more agile and exact than an index finger, and clicking is often more accurate than tapping. You’ll find the icons for changing text size, highlighting, annotating and searching easy to find and use. You’ll also find a page layout option.

What the Kindle for PC can’t do, however, is provide easy access to text-to-speech via a turn-on/turn-off option. If you’re using the Kindle for PC with ELLs or students with learning disabilities, you’ll definitely want your e-reader to have this capability.

Amazon knows this too. The Kindle for PC with Accessibility Plug-in link directs you to detailed information about how to get the plug-in and what features, including text-to-speech, it provides. (Until recently, users who wanted this feature could use ReadPlease, a free text-to-speech application that has been discontinued.)

The Kindle accessibility plug-in has been tested with two screen readers: JAWS and NVDA. NVDA is free. Take some time to download, install and work with both the plug-in and a screen reader. Once this is done, you’ll be glad you have this option available for those who need it.

Check back next week for more on the Kindle apps and the features of e-readers and e-reader apps most valued in the classroom.

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