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reed magazine logoAutumn 2009

Kindle vs. Caxton

As fall washes over the Portland landscape and Reedie shoulders begin to stoop with the accumulated weight of dog-eared classics and dusty tomes, several dozen students are walking through campus with a bit more spring in their step. The reason? Many of their heavy textbooks and printouts have been replaced by Amazon’s new Kindle DX—a compact, portable e-book reader with a paper-like screen that devotees herald as the newest evolution of the printed word.

Reed, along with a handful of other colleges and universities, has agreed to test the device in a classroom setting with an eye to its potential uses in academia. In exchange for providing feedback, students from three upper-division courses will be allowed to keep their Kindles, which normally retail for a hefty $489.

Francis Dieterle

Francis Dieterle ’12 reckons Caxton still beats the Kindle.

The three pilot courses are French 451 (The History of Truth and Authenticity from Montaigne to Sartre); English 302 (Irony, Allegory, Epic); and Political Science 422 (Nuclear Politics).

Assistant professor Luc Monnin admires the way the Kindle allows students in his French class to condense an entire semester’s-worth of readings from diverse sources into a single, page-sized unit that weighs barely more than a pound. He also likes the Kindle’s slim profile and innovative electronic-ink technology, which reduces eye-strain during reading. But he and his students say the device also has serious shortcomings.

To begin with, navigating from page to page on the Kindle takes twice as long as the simple act of turning a page in a book—a striking drawback when students need to refer to a passage during class. In addition, Francis Dieterle ’12, who likes to scribble notes in the margins of texts, adds that the Kindle’s clunky annotation technology is a major problem. His suggestion? A stylus that would allow the user to write directly onto the “page” of the e-book. Feedback like this will help Amazon broaden its market, which currently focuses mainly on casual readers.

Unfortunately, there are some issues that even Amazon can’t solve. “Yes, it’s a useful product,” says Francis. “But I love books. I love the way they smell—especially in the Thesis Tower.” He points an accusatory finger over his bowl of oatmeal and brown sugar. “Don’t tell me you’ve never sat up there and just breathed in the delicious aroma!”

Ultimately, whether it’s styluses or Smell-O-Vision, it seems that the Kindle needs more work before it becomes the perfect classroom accoutrement.

—Lucy Bellwood ’12

Mellon Grant Boosts Enviro Studies

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded Reed $844,000 over four years for bridge funding for the two faculty positions in chemistry and in political science that are needed to launch its environmental studies program in fall 2010. The college will raise funds to endow both positions permanently as part of its centennial campaign.

The grant will enable Reed to expand its curricular offerings with a new standing interdisciplinary major in environmental studies and to offer some events and programs focused on environmental issues. The environmental studies program requires four new tenure track faculty positions: one each in the departments of biology, chemistry, history and political science. The college has already added a tenure track position in environmental history. It is also seeking donors for a position in the biology department as part of its campaign. By adding these faculty positions and the new major, Reed will create more opportunities for students to engage in meaningful study of the environment.

Reedies Nab Prestigious Awards

Another crop of dynamic, inquisitive Reed-folk have received awards to further their studies at home and abroad. Join us as we celebrate their accomplishments:

Brian Radzinsky ’09, the first Reedie in ten years to win a Carnegie Junior Fellowship, will pursue his research in nonproliferation with a selected Senior Associate from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace—one of the world’s leading think tanks for international affairs. Check out The International Interest, a blog he coauthors with Adam Mount ’07.

James Meador ’09 will be further investigating Russian and Religion at Moscow’s St. Petersburg University with a Fulbright Research Scholarship. Meador hopes that this will allow him “to better explain Russia to Americans.” See Reed’s Spring 2009 issue for an in-depth look at his thesis, Moscow Tantric Blues.

Katherine L. Agnew ’09 is building upon her bilingual German and English upbringing and study-abroad experiences in Europe and the Mediterranean with a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship. As a classicist, she believes that one cannot “study ancient [cultures] while ignoring the lives of the modern people occupying them.” This conviction inspired her to return to Turkey and teach English, deepening her understanding of the region.

Maeve Hooper

Maeve Hooper ’09 will also be traveling abroad as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. Hooper spent her Junior year in Munich with the highly-competitive German Academic Exchange Service, and is thrilled to return as an English teacher. She hopes to introduce the delights of Irish step-dancing, one of her great passions, to her German students.

Maeve Hooper

Darius Rejali, professor of political science, himself a former Carnegie Scholar, was awarded the 2009 Danish Distinguished Chair in Human Rights and International Studies—one of the most prestigious appointments of the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship board. Rejali will conduct research this academic year at the Danish Center for International Studies and Human Rights.

—Lucy Bellwood ’12

reed magazine logoAutumn 2009