Hot on the heels of the super-successful Kindle 2 launch, Amazon announced the Kindle DX ($489 direct), a larger, higher capacity, and more expensive version. I was able to get some hands-on time with the device and found it to be just as advertised: a larger version of the Kindle. That said, that extra screen size and the new partnerships with textbook vendors could help the Kindle DX open markets previously untapped by e-book readers.
The biggest difference between the Kindle DX and the Kindle 2 is the size of the screen, which is 2.5-times larger than the original. Moving from a 6-inch display to a 9.7-inch display makes the reading experience a lot more like reading a standard 8.5-by-11-inch piece of paper. Whereas reading the Kindle 2 is akin to reading a book, the Kindle DX feels more like reading a magazine. Indeed, Jeff Bezos said at today’s announcement that presenting structured, designed content is one of the key reasons for developing the Kindle DX.
The device measures 10.4 by 7.2 by 0.38 inches, and indeed, it feels incredibly thin when you hold it in your hand. It weighs 18.9 ounces and has about the same heft as a spiral bound paper notebook. Two small slits on the left side of the device will be used to attach a protective case, but none were on display today. The back of the Kindle DX features the same brushed metal back as the Kindle 2. Not much to see there.
One upgrade that won’t be immediately obvious is the increased memory. The Kindle DX comes with 4GB of memory and room to store about 3,500 books, compared to the 1,500-book capacity of the Kindle 2. I doubt many Kindle users ever max out their libraries, but since Amazon is increasingly pushing the Kindle as a tool for reading your own documents, the extra capacity could come in handy. There is still no removable memory slot adding memory.
The Kindle DX’s interface hasn’t changed much from Kindle 2. The Home button is still the best way to restart your navigation process and the five-way directional toggle lets you navigate the menus. I still think this process could be smoothed out some, but it isn’t too difficult to move around. Although the Page Forward and Page Back commands are still along the right side of the device, they’ve been removed from the left-hand side.
One key improvement is the addition of an accelerometer. Like the Apple iPhone, the Kindle DX can detect its orientation and rotates the screen accordingly. This lets you view documents, photos, and charts in landscape mode. In fact, the device can even be operated upside down, so that left handers can use the Page Forward/Page Back keys with their left hand if they want. (Typing on the QWERTY keyboard upside down is much, much more difficult.)
The Kindle DX also adds native PDF and RTF file support. Although previous Kindles have been able to display PDFs, this support was experimental and often achieved mixed results. The Kindle DX will ship with native PDF support that uses Adobe Reader Mobile technology. The demos I saw included nautical charts, maps, and legal documents, and the results were very impressive. Of course, I will have to load my own PDFs to really evaluate this feature.
Otherwise, the Kindle DX supports the same assortment of file formats, including Kindle, (AZW) TXT, Audible, HTML, Doc, JPEG, GIF, and PNG. Files can be sideloaded via the microUSB cable or sent through Amazon’s Whispernet service for $.15/MB.
As with the Kindle 2, the Kinlde DX comes with a built-in 1xRTT EVDO modem for wirelessly loading books and other digital content using the companies Whispernet service. Whispernet works seamlessly in the background, but it should be noted the company recently moved to per MB pricing for files that you upload to the service. If users do start uploading lots of their own files to the device, as Amazon seems to want them to, this could end up adding to the price of the device.
Other than the increased size, the biggest improvement in the Kindle ecosystem is the deal with textbook publishers. The textbook market will be key for the DX to succeed. Amazon has already signed up three of the top five textbook publishers (Cengage Learning, Pearson, and Wiley) as well as 27 University Press Publishers. The Kindle DX will be used in trials with at least five universities this fall.
There are lots of unanswered questions about the Kindle DX that I will answer when the device comes into PCMag Labs for testing. That said, given how closely the device builds on the Kindle 2 platform, it seems like a useful addition to the Kindle portfolio. This will be especially true if Amazon can succeed in evolving the device from a pure e-book reader into a device for reading all sorts of digital documents, including textbooks, magazines, blogs, word documents, PDFs, Excel spreadsheets, e-mails, or any other document people currently print out.