Supersized Kindle DX Makes E-Reading Easy for a Supersized Price
Size seems to matter to the folks at Amazon. While the Kindle 2 has a 6-inch (measured diagonally) e-ink screen — roughly the area of a mass-market paperback book — the DX’s 9.7-inch screen resembles a page from a typical hardback. Put another way, the DX flaunts 2.5 times more display space. More text on a page means more lines and, if you prefer, a bigger font, without having to turn the page as often. What does that mean for you? It’s easier to read via the Kindle DX.
Best of all, the Kindle DX was engineered not to feel big. Virtually the same thickness as the Kindle 2, the 19-ounce heft won’t tax your wrists. Its keyboard is actually a little smaller than the Kindle 2’s, so almost all of the DX’s front surface is covered by the screen. This feels less gadgety, more tablety. It’s very comfortable to hold, and as with the Kindle 2, the DX becomes invisible once you become entranced by an author’s spell.
The reader’s appearance is further streamlined by its absence of buttons on the left-hand side of the unit; the controls to turn pages have migrated exclusively to the right side. Even though I’m a righty, and do most of my page turning from that side, I do miss the Kindle 2’s Next page button on the left, which I use when reading in bed, head propped up by my right arm. With the DX, I find myself reaching across the page with my left hand to turn the screen, giving me a sense of the difficulties that southpaws may face with the Kindle DX. Amazon’s suggested fix is using the DX’s controls to invert the page image, and flipping the unit so the keyboard is on top. But that gives lefties an upside down QWERTY.
The DX’s other giant step forward is a built-in PDF reader. With previous Kindles, you cannot use many PDF files, including thethousands of tomes available on Google Books. Shortly after I got my DX, I downloaded the Google Books version of the public domainAutobiography of Benjamin Franklin and e-mailed the 9-megabtye file to my Kindle DX. Inside of 10 minutes, the document arrived via Whispernet (Kindle’s wireless service) and I was reading the scanned pages.
At last month’s announcement, Jeff Bezos made it clear thatthe Kindle DX was targeted largely to students requiring textbooks and professionals accessing business documents.
The textbooks haven’t arrived, but the DX crisply displays monochrome output of PDF or MS Office files. Workers who normally carry binders full of documents will greatly lessen their load by toting a Kindle DX, which has 3.3 gigs worth of usable storage. When you view those pages, it makes sense to use the Kindle’s sensors for the auto-rotation that orients the image between portrait and landscape mode. But just plain readers won’t appreciate the feature. People assume weird, tilted angles when they get comfy with books, and they’re bound to get upset when the text of the new Michael Connelly thriller goes sideways. Fortunately, by pulling up the control panel triggered by a special font key, it’s easy to turn off the pivot.
Another promise made at its coming out party was that the Kindle DX would usher in new business models and formatting for newspapers and magazines. We’ve yet to see the implementations, let alone the fine print on this, so as of now, subscribers to Kindle periodicals are stuck with a cumbersome interface that makes magazine articles readable but dull in appearance. Reading a long newspaper article on the Kindle DX can be daunting, as it appears like a dense block of text
The most glaring hindrance of the Kindle DX is its price. It costs $490 &mash; more than the original Kindle cost at its launch 19 months ago. Even Apple, which operates on a premium pricing philosophy, typically introduces its improved models at the cost of the previous one. You’d expect the Kindle DX to come in at $400, with the Kindle 2 tariff (which remains at $370) dropped to $300. That’s plenty for a device that sends you directly to the manufacturer to buy books.
By elegantly supersizing the Kindle — and ramping up its ability to read files — Amazon has improved the best all-around e-reader available. But the hefty price tag doesn’t fit Jeff Bezo’s stated philosophy of getting the best value for his customers