Monday, January 16, 2012

Should Medical Students Buy The Kindle Fire?

Back in 2009, when tablets and e-readers were first becoming popular on the market, we discussed whether medical students should be required to have tablets like the iPad, or whether one should wait for an e-reader like the Kindle geared towards medical education. Now, two years later, as tablets and e-readers continue to converge and prices fall, Amazon had introduced the Kindle Fire:

What is the Kindle Fire? It is Amazon's $199 color 7-inch tablet that runs Amazon's custom version of Android for tablets. Why does this matter for medical students? Here are a few reasons why the Fire does matter:
  • Price - At under $200, the tablet is much more affordable than the iPad for most medical students on a budget. 
  • Portability - At 7", the tablet is light and small enough to carry to any lecture hall, or even on wards potentially.
  • Color - Unlike prior Kindles, the full color screen lets students get the most out of any medical resources they find online.
  • Amazon - Yes, the company selling the tablet matters. Given the huge amount of content Amazon offers and the proven track record of the Kindle family, students who buy the Kindle will not get left behind, unlike, say, buyers of HP's TouchPad, who shelled out 3x as much money just to find out less than 2 months later that HP was killing the product.
  • Price, again - Hello, you can buy three of these for the cost of an iPad. 
All that being said, the Kindle Fire is not an automatic slam dunk. Some users find the 7" screen cramped for web browsing and that the browser is slow compared to the iPad's. Also, if you are interested in using apps that only run on iOS, they cannot be used on a Kindle Fire. Even some common Android apps may not function perfectly given Amazon's tweaks to the OS.

So, where does this leave a medical student? Basically right now, first ask yourself whether you really need a tablet and what role it would play in your education. Are the text books you like to read available in e-book versions? Do you heavily use online resources? Is your campus fully Wifi-enabled? If so, a tablet makes sense. But which one? If you have the budget, certainly test drive an iPad 2. However, if your budget is a little tighter, the Kindle Fire seems to be a fitting alternative. Although, for what it's worth, the best bet may just be to wait a little while for the Kindle Fire 2

Updated 2015-12-20

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