The Kindlejammer Kids: Kids and Kindles

Some of the best presents I ever got were books.  I think literacy is an incredible super-power…seriously, if you said I could have the power of flight if I agreed never to read anything again, I’d say no. 

As adults, don’t we wish our kids had the same experiences we had reading books?  Maybe it’s giving them a special book, or just wanting them to have the incredible connection to ideas, even if it’s something that wasn’t written when we had a flashlight under the blanket.

Naturally, then, people are thinking about giving Kindles to kids.  Lots of people have, but other people worry about it.  They express serious concerns. 

In this post, I’ll look at some of those issues.

Do kids read?

Yes!  Some of the bestsellers in the past few years have been at least partially aimed at children (although enthusiastically read by adults as well, in some cases).  Here are a few as I write this:

* Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days  (#8 book at Amazon) (ages 9-12)
* Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine & a Miracle  (#17 book at Amazon) (ages 4-8)
* Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas (#25 book at Amazon) (ages 4-8)

Notice that those ranking aren’t for Children’s Books or Kindle books…those are the rankings for any kind of books at Amazon.  Yes, kids today read.  :)

What about teenagers?

Hello!  Twilight?  I read tons of books as a teenager, and I’m sure that’s still true for a lot of teens.

Is a Kindle too fragile for kids?

That’s a good and important question.  A Kindle is more expensive than a paperback…and more fragile.   I was really careful with books when I was a kid…still am.  It’s often hard to tell I’ve even read a book.  I’m about as careful with my Kindle, but I have dropped it a couple of times.   It’s been okay, but I do have a cover (which I strongly recommend), and I know there is some luck with that.  From what I’ve read, it’s much worse for it to land on an edge than on the flat.

However, I wouldn’t have hesitated to give my kid a Kindle at, say, ten.  Even at eight, I think.  Kids are different.  A lot of kids also have more experience with expensive electronics than I did when I was a kid (although when I was a teenager, calculators did cost a hundred bucks, I think) ;) .

I’d say you want the kid to be more careful than average…and you’ll have to figure out what happens if it breaks.  You may want to consider the extended warranty.

Isn’t it an expensive item for a kid?

Not more expensive than many videogame systems.   If you buy a lot of books, the typically lower prices and free books can have it pay for itself…but don’t get it for that reason.

Are there a lot of books for kids?

There are a lot of books, but you definitely should look at the selection.  Kids can be very brand loyal, and it may not have the specific books they want.   There aren’t a lot of picture books, but that may change with the Kindle for PC application.  The pictures on the Kinde aren’t in color, and the screen is much smaller than, say, a Dr. Seuss book.    

What about older kids who read “chapter books”?

Then, you are in luck!  There are quite a few of those.  According to Amazon, they have 14,500 Children’s Chapter Books for the Kindle.  I also need to say, they aren’t very good at categorizing those, and there are probably many more that you would put into that category.

Will they have my favorite book when I was a kid?

Maybe yes, maybe no.  If you read a lot of books first published in the US before 1923, probably yes…and they may be free!  In addition to free, there may be very low priced versions…especially for books that were in a series.

Here are some examples:

However, if your favorite books were published in the 1950s, or 1970s…some time between 1923 and 2005, the odds are not as good.  It comes down to copyright.  Books first published before 1923 in the US?  In the public domain, anybody can publish them.  Books after that?  You need permission…and e-book rights probably weren’t negotiated before about 2005, so it’s back to buying the rights again for the publisher.

It’s happening, though.  Last I checked, about 800 books a day were being added to the Kindle store.  Not too long ago, I said that the Choose Your Own Adventure books weren’t available for the Kindle: they are now.

I think there will be a lot more books in the next year or two.

Does Amazon let parents choose which websites children can visit?

The Kindle does have a clunky web browser, and yes, you could visit adult sites with it.  Let me be clear, though…it’s really clunky.  I refer to using the web browser on the Kindle as “slogging the web”.  But you could use it.  Amazon does not let you choose which websites.  You can, however, stop the Kindle from visiting websites at all.  You can deregister it.

Deregistering

It may seem strange to give a kid a Kindle that isn’t registered to your account.  However, it can be one of the best tools parents/guardians have.  A deregistered Kindle can not access the internet, and you can not buy books directly from the device. 

How will you get books on the device for your child to read?  While the device is registered to your account, you can download the books on to it.  When it gets deregistered, they don’t go away…they can still be read on the device.  So, you could get it, register it, load up a thousand books or so, and then deregister it.  Later on, you can reregister it again and add more.  Is there a limit to that?  Not that I’ve ever heard about, and I’ve read about people registering and deregistering many times.

A Kindle is not really any safer registered than deregistered, by the way.  Since the Kindle can be deregistered from the device as well, a thief can do that easily.  Just have the serial number from the back of the device in case there is an ownership dispute.  See this earlier thread about lost or stolen Kindles.

Also, there are a lot of books that don’t have Digital Right Management (DRM)…although they will come from other sources.   Those can be put directly into the Kindle’s documents folder using the included USB cord.

Another tool would be to hold on to that USB cord.  :)  It’s kind of an unusual one, so without it, it’s harder to put things on it from a computer that you don’t authorize.  Could they borrow a friend’s Kindle cable?  Sure, I don’t think there is any 100 percent way to stop somebody (pretty much anybody) from getting to information, if they are really determined to do it.  Parenting comes into play here too, of course.

What if you do want your kid to be able to buy books from the Kindle store?

You can buy directly from the Kindle, so if you leave it registered, they can do that.  This  isn’t unsupervised, though.  Every time something is bought on your account, you get an e-mail notifying you.  You can typically “return” an item within seven days for a refund. 

If your kid buys something you didn’t want them to have, act quickly.  Amazon won’t be happy if there are a hundred returns in a month from your account.  Up to you how you handle it, but I’d deregister it right away and then talk about what your child needs to do to get it reregistered.

You can also apply gift certificates to the account, and remove the credit card in the mean time.  1-click (which is how you buy things from the Kindle) will draw from the gift certificate balance first.  You can’t not use it, though…anybody buying on your account will be burning that balance. 

What if your kid loses the Kindle or somebody steals it?

That’s a risk.  I’d definitely get a TrackItBack sticker.

What about setting up a separate account for my kid?

You could do that.  Some people don’t like that their children can see what books they’ve bought, and there may be some that aren’t appropriate.  A negative is that you can’t share the books you buy as easily, but that could work.  You could deregister from your child’s account, register to yours, put books on there, and deregister again, then re-register to your kid’s account.

We’re already getting an expensive gift: is there something besides a Kindle we can get for e-book-reading?

Yes.  If you child has a iPhone or on iPod Touch, they can get a free Kindle app.  You can download the free Kindle for PC software.  If your child has a laptop or netbook or equivalent, that could work well.  Younger people seem to be better able to tolerate backlighting than older people.   I do think the Kindle is a better experience, but this is another way to go.

So, overall, I think this could be a wonderful, life-changing gift for a lot of kids.  :)  If you’ve decided to get it, I have a gift catalogue in this earlier post.

Even though there will undoubtedly be improved e-book readers in the future, I think this would be a gift that would be remembered for a long, long time.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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7 Responses to “The Kindlejammer Kids: Kids and Kindles”

  1. Oliver Says:

    I just wanted to elaborate on the accessing the web issue. Although you can deregister the Kindle, it can be re-registered *from the device itself*, so that is not enough to prevent a child from browsing the internet. What we did was call Amazon and talk to tech support. You *can* get them to remotely disable the internet entirely, so it will never work on the device again, I assume without talking to them first. You can still get books by downloading to PC from Amazon and then transferring via USB.

    I think some of the Amazon people are not aware they can remotely disable the “radio”, as the person I talked to called it. Just don’t take no for an answer, and make sure you get transferred to their experts, not just the people reading a script who will claim this isn’t possible. The phone number to use is: 1-877-453-4512, and if someone else curious responds to this post, I’ll get an email, and I could give you the name of the person I talked to.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      That’s very interesting information, Oliver! Thanks for writing!

      For the child to re-register, they need access to the account information. From the device, you need the username (it’s an e-mail) and password. To do it from the Amazon site, you need a username and password (and the serial number).

      For most people, I think that’s pretty safe. If your child sets up an independent Amazon account, of course, that’s a problem.

      Disabling the radio is intriguing though…I’ll talk to them about that. Thanks!

    • Matt Says:

      Hi Oliver! I tried calling in order to disable to radio, but I was told that this was not possible. Could you email me that name of the person you talked to? That would be great.

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  4. Raquel Says:

    This is great but my kids can deregister it when ever and change the language even with it locked. It takes off all the games and i have to re download them every time, but it does keep the books; but thats about it.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Raquel!

      The post to which you are responding is more than four years old, and there’s been quite a bit of sophistication added since then.

      Which model Kindle do you have?

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