BY NICO VREELAND
The Internet ate too much Kindle DX yesterday and threw up all over itself; there was instant analysis and little chunks of live-blogging everywhere. Now that things have calmed down a bit, here’s your guide to what everybody’s been saying.
As you might have heard, the Kindle DX—just announced yesterday—is Amazon’s large-screen version of their flagship product. Its specs are very similar to the Kindle 2’s feature set, except that the DX has a 9.7″ screen (instead of 6″) and costs nearly $500.
OK, those aren’t quite the only differences. The DX also sports an iPhone-like auto-rotate feature, which you can see in action in the first of a series of great videos from a MobileRead user. And the official DX page at Amazon crows about native PDF support; however, the new Kindle still doesn’t support any DRM formats other than Kindle proprietary. That means the DX still can’t talk to Adobe Digital Editions and still can’t borrow library ebooks, and all that has an Adobe exec, as TeleRead noticed, siding with Sony.
The bigger fish frying is how Kindle DX will perform as a textbook platform and as a newspaper reader.
As the New York Times reported, Amazon has three academic publishers and six colleges and universities signed on for pilot programs this summer that will test the DX as an etextbook platform. The hardware is unquestionably a step forward for ereaders, and the highlighting feature saves text automatically, and allows users to access it from a PC, which sounds great for students.
But the lack of a touchscreen makes the highlighting process clunky at best (see it for yourself in the second of those MobileRead videos). And the price is high enough to make a lot of people balk (CrunchGear collected some Twittered responses here). Students would presumably be at the head of the balking line, right up there with the most ferocious balkers, balking away.
The battle for student money is being fought between laptop-based etextbooks and dedicated devices like the DX. Laptop textbooks have advantages like lower cost, color display, and better interactivity. Dedicated devices have more readable screens and slightly better form factors.
GalleyCat has a couple of great interviews from both parties: a print discussion with Frank Lyman, who’s a marketeer for a laptop etextbook company; and a video interview with Steven Kessel, an Amazon exec, wherein Kessel tries to convince us that students will spend the money.
Clearly, neither solution is ideal, but I have to side with Lyman. Lit students don’t need the big size (and the accompanying price tag) of the DX, and I can’t feature science students dropping half a K for the privilege of using black and white diagrams. I’m not really sure what subject’s textbooks would benefit from the size and readability but not be hurt by the lack of color. (For the record, I think something like this Chinese Internet tablet has a better feature set for etextbooks.)
On the plus side for Amazon, the DX looks absolutely perfect for newspapers. This device is perfect for simple, black and white content that you don’t need to interact with. Also, magazines and newspapers have always been the Kindle’s strong suit, thanks to its Whispernet and auto-update feature.
The price is still a real issue, though. CrunchGear has a press release stating that a few major newspapers are launching pilots this summer, and plan to introduce DX subsidies for readers who live in non-home-delivery areas. Still, though.
If this thing was $200 instead of $500, and came with a year’s subscription to the NY Times, I think it could be a game-changer. It still might, but the odds are stacked a little against it.
This whole thing is going to be an interesting fight to watch, but a tough one to handicap.
OTHER BITS AND BOBS:
MobileRead reminds you that if you bought a K2 in the past thirty days, you can return it and get a DX.
The Times’ first impressions of the DX.