Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Amazon's Kindle DX

So Amazon today announced the Kindle DX, a larger version of their Kindle e-reader. I don't know what to make of it. I own a Kindle 2, and I cannot honestly say that there is anything that I use the Kindle 2 to do that I could do better on the DX.

The main differences in the DX from the K2 are:
more on-board memory (3.3 GB vs. 2 GB)
bigger screen (9.7" vs 6") -- and corresponding larger hardware size
native PDF support
auto-rotating screen

The DX seems to be aimed at the college crowd as well as the crowd that reads periodicals (especially newspapers) on their Kindle. I have finished school (for the time being?) and do not regularly read any newspaper (thus I do not subscribe to any on my Kindle 2).

I don't know, for regular books, I think I'd probably find the Kindle DX annoying. The Kindle 2 screen size means that with the default font size, I feel like I'm reading a normal page in a book. I think having more lines of text on the screen would be almost distracting to me. To combat this, one could of course increase the font size on the display, but I also do not like reading bigger print. I do not have any reason for this other than that it's a personal preference.

The physical size difference wouldn't impact me much. I read books in a variety of ways: on my Kindle 2, on my PDA (Dell Axim x51v until the iPod dies and then I'm likely getting an iPod Touch), and in audio form. My Kindle 2 mostly stays at home on my nightstand or in the bathroom. If I'm on the go and reading, I'm either reading something on the PDA or listening to an audiobook (I did an accounting recently, I have 117 audiobooks). When I travel, my Kindle 2 comes with me, naturally, though I don't typically carry it around day-to-day. I have done so on occassion, as it's the perfect size to fit into my day-to-day bag (an extra small Timbuk2 messenger bag). The Kindle DX wouldn't fit in there. I don't know how many people would carry either device around day-to-day, though I imagine that those who carry around briefcases or laptop bags probalby wouldn't notice the difference, either way. I would.

So, taking a look at one market for the DX, how would college students use it? When I was in college, I ended up buying many textbooks new through Amazon at cheaper prices than I could get them used at the college bookstore. When I was done with them, I'd either keep them or sell them back and then go out at the end of the term with my book buyback money. The Kindle DX probably will help save money in the initial purchase but removes the sell-back ability. I can tell you without a doubt that my introductory stats book was useless, and even with a Kindle DX, I'd want to get rid of it.

That all said, my physics textbooks were often rather thick (stupid loooooooooong equations and proofs) and I probably would have appreiciated the ease on my back. Then again, I got hit by cars twice while in college. If that happened with a Kindle DX and it was damaged, I'd have to replace the hardware to get my books back, which wasn't the case with the standard books. Same thing for more "typical" things like losing it or spilling beverages on it. A minor issue, but one that becomes major (and expensive) if it happens to you.

Of course, there's also a problem with the Kindle and DRM if you ever get your Amazon account suspended. A story related to this was in a lot of the blogs recently, and I would be quite pissed if I bought a piece of expensive hardware that was effectively useless if that happened. But that gripe holds for the Kindle 2 as much as the DX.

Then we get to the newspaper crowd. I do not know anyone my age that reads the newspaper. Granted, I hang out with some people who are disturbingly out of touch with what's happening in the world. However, I also hang out with people who do what I do, and get their news from various websites (newspaper websites, BBC, etc), news aggregators (including, and of course, Jon Stewart. I read somewhere recently that the majority of Kindle owners were over 40. I'm not. So maybe this newspaper feature will appeal to that crowd (who I think does read the newspaper), but I don't think anybody my age will care.

At $489, the Kindle DX a bit pricier than the $359 Kindle 2. For the way that I use my Kindle, and the way I read books in general, I can't see people my age actually buying it. Dwight Silverman (on Twitter, @dsilverman) has said he thinks this is a pre-emptive manevuer by Amazon to combat an Apple tablet or e-reader. Maybe that's the case. Michael Gartenberg (@Gartenberg on Twitter) has said that the larger screen and better layout control of the DX would make him recommend the DX over the Kindle 2 to someone who doesn't own one (I hope he writes up his impressions/thoughts and posts them to his personal site or to Engadget, I look forward to hearing more of his thoughts on it). Personally, if I didn't have a Kindle 2 now, I still think I'd buy the Kindle 2, not the DX. I think a lot of people my age would. But, in the end, I guess we'll see.

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