Far less than actual size
Amazon had the big KindleDX press event today and I’ve been combing the massive amount of information that’s come available to try and figure this thing out. Not much was revealed today that hadn’t already been divulged, and after diving into this tower of news I must admit I’m trying to figure out who, exactly, the KindleDX is targeting.
The hardware of the Kindle DX is what we expected; it’s basically a larger Kindle 2, which is surprising to me. I can’t for the life of me understand why Amazon has timed the KindleDX announcement to be so soon after the launch of the Kindle 2. There is very little that is different between the two devices, frankly, other than size. Sure the Kindle DX will auto-rotate into landscape orientation, but that’s something many devices will do and I don’t believe that adds very much in the usability department, given the type of content that Amazon is touting for the DX. Newspapers, periodicals and textbooks are all formatted for pages that are longer than they are wide, so the landscape trick is not very useful, in my view. Several folks at the press event claimed that rotation is slow enough to be aggravating, which just makes this worse.
The pricing of the KindleDX may be its downfall. Amazon will retail the device for $489 and have opened up for pre-orders. That price is very high for a gadget of limited use and I think we’ll see it drop sooner rather than later if Amazon wants to sell many of these. They did touch on subsidies from newspapers to drive the price down but at a cost of a vague long-term contract subscription to obtain them. Consumers don’t like contracts for subsidies as a rule, and I can’t imagine that many will want to sign one for a newspaper or periodical of some sort. Thrown in on top of that is the admission by The Washington Post and The New York Times that a subsidy is only available to those who don’t live in areas that have home delivery of the print edition available. That eliminates a big sector of the target market for the KindleDX so I’m really confused how this will work. Will they simply ban anyone in NYC from getting a subsidy, even those who do not already subscribe to the NYT? Aren’t lack of subscribers at the heart of their financial woes? You see why I am confused how this will help them out. What happens if you cancel the contract mid-term? Does your credit card then get a big hit for the subsidy loss leaving you with a really expensive device you don’t use?
Amazon is also pushing the new KindleDX to students for electronic textbook usage. This makes sense on the surface but the more I delve into this usage the more unsure I get if this is really a good thing. The ability to carry many textbooks around in the Kindle DX is definitely much better than carrying all those heavy, paper textbooks around, but will students really carry one around everywhere? The key to making this a viable market will be cheaper textbooks, and I mean much cheaper. Remember that these will be DRM-infested textbooks, in effect licensed to the student who pays the big bucks. That means that there will be no loaning of the book to fellow students and no reselling the “used” textbook at the end of the term. If we look at how much cheaper regular e-books are than paper books we know that the lack of paper doesn’t make the price go down. I can’t see these electronic textbooks being much cheaper than the paper variety, either.
It’s important to realize that electronic textbooks are nothing new. CourseSmart has been selling them for a while and students who go that route can read them on the laptop they already own. No extra expensive device needed for those who want to go with textbooks in e-book format. This is really nothing new.
I don’t intend to be wholly negative about the KindleDX; I am a huge supporter of e-books in every form and I love electronic readers. I enjoy using my Kindle 1 and if I didn’t own one I’d probably buy a Kindle 2. I wouldn’t for the life of me buy a Kindle DX, though, because it’s too expensive and too darn big. Several hands-on accounts of the KindleDX I’ve read today indicate that it’s heavy and bulky and not very comfortable to use. That makes it a much worse deal for me personally than the Kindle 2. Sure the Kindle 2 is smaller, but the text is just as big. So you hit the “Next Page” button more often than on the bigger DX. Who cares?