Just a scant three months after announcing the Kindle 2, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos took the stage at Pace University in lower Manhattan this morning to announce another version of his company’s e-book reader. This one’s called the Amazon DX. It’s basically a stretched-out version of the K2, with a 9.7-inch screen (2.5 times the size of the K2), the ability to read PDF files, and an iPhone-like feature that automatically flips the viewing mode to landscape when you rotate it 90 degrees.
After the presentation, I held the DX. It’s a pretty gadget, but the screen still seemed under-sized to me. Although Bezos proudly pointed out that you’ll be able to view an entire 8.5″ x 11″ page without panning, zooming, or scrolling, the entire footprint of the DX — including the screen — is still smaller than a sheet of paper. A product manager pointed out that on a typical printed page, there are empty margins framing the text, thus the usable area on a sheet of paper is also smaller than 8.5 x 11. Fair enough, but Amazon is positioning the DX as a device for not just viewing e-books and documents, but also as a newspaper reader — but the DX screen can’t come close to fitting in the amount of text and pictures found on a typical newspaper page.
Publishers have high hopes for the DX; the New York Times and theWashington Post will be subsidizing the DX’s $489 price tag if youcommit to buying an e-subscription to their newspapers (though theexact amount of the discount won’t be announced until closer to theDX’s summer release date).
Both Kindles run up against the same high hurdles. They’re bothpretty costly (Amazon will continue to sell the Kindle 2 for $359) andface competition from all sorts of devices that can deliver e-content(including laptops, netbooks, smartphones, and, if you believe therumors, a tablet/e-reader from Apple in the near future). Newspaperpublishers are also going to have an extremely difficult timeconvincing readers to pay to read articles on their Kindles instead ofpulling up the same content for free on the Internet.
Despite these headwinds, more than a few of you are on board theKindle train: Amazon says that 35 percent of sales of books that have aKindle edition are sold in that format. For those of you who aren’tsold on these devices yet, what needs to happen before you’d buy aKindle 2 or DX?