So I finally caved and bought a Kindle. It costs $79 now, so why wouldn’t I? It’s as great as I had hoped for pleasure reading, but does every student need one in their backpack?

Probably not.

Don’t get me wrong, I love it for casual reading, and if you’ve got the time to read books that aren’t on any syllabus, then the $79 Kindle is a no brainer. It’s the only good gadget under $100 that I can think of. Page turns are fast enough as to not be noticeable, the ability to add files to the reader via email is a huge time saver, and the e-ink screen is admittedly pretty great for reading, even for an iPad addict like myself.

Still though, I’m not convinced that this is the right device for student reading, but I’m not sure there’s any device that fits that bill yet. The iPad is probably as good you’ll find, but it’s expensive. The Kindle Fire is cheap, but try reading a textbook on a 7″ screen, or finding one with its dearth of apps. Unfortunately, the e-ink Kindle, be it the $79 model, the Kindle Keyboard, or the new Kindle Touch, isn’t the answer either.

The most glaring issue facing student adoption of the Kindle is book availability. The Amazon catalog is as good as they come for novels or popular non-fiction titles, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find any textbooks formatted for e-ink. Tablets at least have the benefit of running apps like Kno or CourseSmart that have their own catalogs of textbooks, but e-ink Kindles are stuck with Amazon’s store.

A problem that plagues almost all e-readers is the lack of true page numbers. Some books available from Amazon have the feature, but adoption is slow in coming. Maybe some teachers will allow you to cite percentages or locations in your papers, but if they don’t, you’re simply out of luck.

One key, if somewhat overlooked feature, is the ability to view your highlights and notes online. While I would prefer the ability to automatically export my information to Evernote or Google Docs, the ability to view and copy your annotations on the same device you use to type a paper can be a huge time saver. If you take a  lot of notes, you’ll probably want to pony up for the $99 Kindle Touch, as navigating a full keyboard with a tiny D-pad will drive you up a wall after a few words.

At $79, you really can’t go wrong with the new Kindle. It’s a great device for the price, but understand that fitting it into a student workflow will be inelegant, and even frustrating. Unfortunately though, there might not be a better option right now.

Do you have a Kindle or other reading device? How do you use it in school? Let us know in the comments