Amazon's Kindle DX promises to save the print media, but can the industry afford $500?

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At 9:30 this morning at Pace University, in the New York Times' former headquarters, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced the Kindle reader we've been waiting for.

No. Really. It's pretty sweet.

• 9.7-inch E-Ink screen (1200 x 824 with 16 shades of gray)

• 1/3 of an inch thick (10.4" x 7.2" x 0.38")

• 4GB Storage for 3,500 books (a bump from 1,500)

• Unspecified but "long" battery life

• Native PDF support through built-in reader

• Automatic landscape/portrait text rotation

• Navigation buttons moved to right side of screen only

• EVDO (of course) for 60-second book transfers

You may know it as the Kindle DX moment - the time when print publishing as we know it may have changed for good, though you'll have to wait for a summer release date to find out for yourself.

The always-fun Gizmodo crew liveblogged the event.

What's the big deal about a new $489 Kindle, anyway? It's literally in the word "big." The real highlight is that this is a reader made for the print media industry.

In fact, the New York Times was on hand to help make the announcement, according to PC World:

The Times, in an oddly vague sentence about itself, notes that it is "expected to be involved in the introduction of the device." Some rumors suggest the paper's current Kindle subscription fee of $13.99 a month will drop down to $9.99 a month on the new device. A number of other publishers are thought to be on-board as well.


The current Kindle 2 (left)

Why is the Gray Lady all geeked up over a new Kindle? If the speculation is right, the DX will have a 9.7-inch screen, up from the current Kindle 2's 6-inch model. You can read the Times on the current Kindle in a type-heavy format that looks fine.

But the extra space allows for the display of other content - including advertising - to play out in crystal clear grayscale glory. And, of course, the now built-in PDF support and 3G speed make downloading just about anything a publication would deliver a snap.

There's been a groundswell of belief that a wireless Internet-enabled device like the Kindle could be the solution to expensive print media production and delivery paradigm's, but issues with truncated content delivery among others made those strategies somewhat premature in nature. But with a larger screen and more publication-like size, another sizable step in e-delivery has been taken for at least some print outlets.

This summer the Times, along with the embattled Boston Globe and the Washington Post will play Guinea pig for the DX as the industry watches to see how it works and what the public thinks.

But it doesn't stop with the Fourth Estate. Can you imagine every college textbook in production, for instance, being available on a book-sized tablet that can receive instant updates wirelessly and offers a nearly limitless library of education materials? Well, you're not alone, as is evidenced by the location of the announcement and the involvement of Case Western Reserve University's president, Barbara Snyder, to help Bezos chat about his new toy. Case is just one of a few schools that will take part in a textbook Kindle DX test program, which also includes Pace, Princeton, Reed, Darden School at the University of Virginia, and Arizona State.

Of course we're still some time away from having this technology available to the masses, which would make it a true solution to many modern print industry problems. But still, it's an undeniable step forward.

Of course this comes just 3 months after the introduction of the Kindle 2, an updated version of the original that sells for $359. It's one thing to be screwed over as a bleeding-edge liver, but this might be hard to swallow for a bunch of people who probably think they got swindled buying an update that lasted less time than summer vacation.

1 Comment

When the Kindle was released in 2007, I was intrigued--partly because I'm a gadget junkie and partly because I'm a book junkie. I found myself going to the Kindle page on Amazon quite a lot and wondering if it was something I'd really use. It looked cool, and I liked the idea of carrying several books in one small package. (You ever been on vacation and come to the realization that the book you brought with you just isn't the book you want to read at that time? I hate it when that happens.)

Time passed, and I didn't order a Kindle. Still, a teaching colleague talked about the device from time to time. She was very much like me: she thought she wanted one, but was a bit daunted by the price and the question of how much she would actually use it.

Then, along came Oprah, and my colleague was sure she wanted one. I was still skeptical. Finally, she got one for Christmas from her parents and showed it to me in January. I liked it a lot, but I'd started hearing rumblings about a Kindle 2 and thought it best to wait.

Soon, another colleague told me she'd ordered a Kindle, but was on a waiting list. Then, Kindle 2 was announced, and this colleague told me she'd received an email saying she'd be upgraded to the Kindle 2 automatically. After it arrived, she brought it to school, singing its praises, and I was hooked. It's easy on the eyes (both in terms of its sleek appearance and the electronic paper's readability) and easy to hold. I wasn't sure I was ready to give up an actual book in hand, but it turns out, I'm fine with it.

Now, I'm one of those folks who lives in a place not covered by Whispernet, but downloading a Kindle book to my computer and moving it to my Kindle 2 is not a hardship. It's done in a flash. Sure, sure, Whispernet's more convenient (I've used it when I've been out of town.), but you know, it's not like I sit around moaning about the lack of Whispernet. Heck, I've got too much reading to do to worry about that.

So, in short, I love my Kindle 2. It does pretty much what I need it to do. (Incidentally, I don't need to read to me, so I'm not so worried about the text-to-speech thing.)

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