Tag Archives: Kindle

Getting Read It Later items to the Kindle

Lately I’ve been using Read It Later as a sort of temporary-bookmarking system. Between my RSS feeds and my Twitter stream, I come across much more text than I can stop to read in the middle of the day, and Read It Later provides a pretty elegant combination of tools of saving these pages for later – a Firefox extension for marking pages and an iPhone app for reading them. An especially great feature of the RIL iPhone app is the way it handles offline reading. When I sync my list, it stores a copy of the source web page, which I can then either read in its original HTML form or after RIL applies its remarkably reliable text-extracting algorithm. In this way I get a lot of reading done while on the subway and away from internet access.

Read It Later on my Kindle

Read It Later on my Kindle

When I got a Kindle recently, I thought that it would be ideal to shift some of this long-form reading from the iPhone to the Kindle’s larger and easier-on-the-eyes screen. A bit of searching turned up Kindlefeeder, a website that will collate RSS feeds and send them as a single document either directly to your Kindle (incurring a $0.15 charge from Amazon) or to your email address, whence you can then transfer to the Kindle via USB. RIL provides feeds for a user’s reading list (here’s mine http://readitlaterlist.com/users/kachooney/feed/unread – you may have to edit your RIL privacy controls to make sure that your items feed is not password-protected). I plugged this feed into Kindlefeeder, but immediately ran up against a wall: RIL’s feed contained titles only. Since my goal was to make my reading list available offline, I needed full feeds.

This seemed like a job for Yahoo Pipes. (Bonus for me: I had never given YP more than a cursory glance in the past, so this was a good chance for me to learn the ropes, er, pipes.) The strategy: hand my RIL titles-only feed to YP, and tell YP to fetch the full text of each item and store it in item>description of a new RSS feed. Then, subscribe to the YP RSS feed with Kindlefeeder. Here’s a sample: http://pipes.yahoo.com/pipes/pipe.edit?_id=3a0be51021240c9eda3541ce5041a29f.

You’ll notice that I’ve filtered out feed items pointing back to http://nytimes.com. That’s because the NYT (1) breaks up most articles into multiple pages, and (2) publishes pages that are uniform to submit to a single parse. NYT feeds are thus handled by a different pipe, one with a few extra steps. First, instead of calling up the item>link from the RIL feed, I get the printer-friendly version (so that it contains the entire article text on a single page). Second, I filter out the header and footer material (advertisements, navigation, etc.) with “cut content” under “Fetch Page”. If, in the future, I find myself sending a lot of items to RIL from another source with similarly uniform markup, I might create yet another filter to strip the extraneous content off.

The final snag in this setup: free Kindlefeeder accounts will not fetch RSS feeds created by Yahoo Pipes, because these feeds take so long to create and therefore put undue stress on Kindlefeeder’s servers. At $20/year, the ability to transport my reading list to the Kindle seemed worth it to buy a Kindlefeeder premium account. So congrats, Kindlefeeder – you got a customer out of me. (Another cost justification – it’s possible to use a similar process to fetch the entire contents of various magazines from the partial feeds they publish on their websites. $20/year is pretty cheap for unlimited magazine subscriptions on the Kindle.)

So go make some computer technologies of your own. Get out of the house and go do it!

Pitching the Kindle

A couple of us at my institution have been trying to pilot the use of the Amazon Kindle in a couple of classes. We’ve had a couple false starts along the way, but now we’ve put together a somewhat more formal (albeit short) proposal. Last time I tweeted about the issue, a couple of people showed interest in what I was doing. So I thought I’d post the guts of the proposal up here for others to see.

A couple of preliminary notes: First, the goal is to get money from the college’s Technology Fee, and this proposal is based on the format and requirements that the college has developed for this purpose. Second, what we’ve said here doesn’t really go into the details of how the project will be implemented – there is much more to say about faculty and student training, documentation, assessment, and so on – but it at least highlights what we envision to be the main aspects of the program.

Description of the project

The Center for Teaching and Learning, the Educational Technology Lab, and the Writing Across the Curriculum program propose to pilot the use of the Kindle 2.0 in 2 – 4 courses during the academic year 2009-10. E-books are quickly become competitors to traditional, printed material, and the Kindle is emerging as the leading e-book reader. Key elements include nearly instantaneous wireless download capabilities, improved readability (as compared to PDA/cell phone options), access to newspapers, blogs, books, and other documents and formats. If the pilot is funded, CTL, the Ed Tech Lab, and WAC will work with interested professors to select a roster of participating courses, representing a variety of departments and working with a variety of kinds of texts. Each participating faculty member will receive a Kindle, along with a $50 gift certificate redeemable at Amazon.com, to work with during the summer of 2009. In the fall, the students enrolled in a course taught by each of these faculty will receive Kindles on loan for the semester. Depending on the nature and availability of the readings prescribed by the class syllabus, the students in a given class may also be provided with a $50 gift certificate to cover the cost of the assigned Kindle texts. Faculty will participate in 2 – 3 workshops designed to help them share pedagogical possibilities and challenges of e-books. Instructors will use the pilot as an opportunity to address concerns about critical reading strategies, among other issues, with students. Faculty and students will be asked to complete surveys about their reading practices before and after the semester and to write periodic reflections on their experience using the Kindle for course work. The long-term plan will be to purchase and maintain enough Kindles that they may be loaned out for courses a semester at a time.


  • E-books are quickly become competitors to traditional, printed books, and the Kindle is emerging as the leading e-book reader. One objective will be to explore, articulate, and communicate with the faculty and student population about the pedagogical implications of this technological and cultural shift.
  • The technology offers an opportunity to explore and emphasize critical reading practices, as well as the organization and management of information (for both faculty and students).
  • Depending on the outcomes, participating faculty may put together a conference panel and/or journal article about the insights they glean from the project.
  • With the College’s push to cut down on paper, the Kindle seems like a good technology to explore, partly because it can read PDFs and other documents in addition to e-books. Students can download and annotate course readings posted on Blackboard or articles from the Library’s extensive databases of electronic journals. It would appear to provide an ideal opportunity for publicizing the College’s green initiatives.

Additional commentary

This proposal calls for the purchase of 75 Kindles, along with 75 protective cases, enough for the instructors and students in approximately 4 upper-level courses. It also calls for the purchase of 80 $50 gift certificates to Amazon.com. One of these gift certificates will be given to each of the 5-10 faculty members who evaluate the device before the semester begins, so that they have time to learn and evaluate the book purchasing process before they demonstrate the process to their students. The remaining gift certificates will be distributed to students in those classes where the syllabus requires the purchase of texts that cannot be freely acquired, i.e. through a public domain repository or the library’s electronic resources. This provision is necessary because students will not keep the Kindles after the semester’s end and thus will not be able to keep the purchased texts in the same way that they would with a traditional paper book. CTL, WAC, and the Ed Tech Lab will work with instructors to determine whether the readings in a given class are such that the students in that class will require the gift certificates. Any gift certificates that are not used during the initial pilot semester will be used for similar purposes in the following semester.

Both during the pilot and throughout the life of the Kindles, the Educational Technology Lab will provide technical and pedagogical support to instructors and students using the devices.

After the initial pilot, the Educational Technology Lab will house and maintain the pilot devices. Working with the Center for Teaching and Learning and the Writing Across the Curriculum program, the Ed Tech Lab will be responsible for finding faculty members each semester who would like to use Kindles in their classes. In this way, the college will get long-term benefits from the purchase of the devices, above and beyond the findings of the original pilot.