Meet Kindle’s Big Brother

Posted by: Douglas Macmillan on May 6, 2009

On Wednesday morning, Amazon confirmed reports that had been circulating about the company’s upcoming release of a large-screen version of its Kindle electronic book reading device. The Kindle DX, now available for pre-order and expected to ship some time this summer, boasts a stunning, 9.7” electronic ink screen that rotates horizontally. It retails for a staggering $489.

Aside from a reconfiguring of the keyboard, the basic hardware design and menu navigation is unchanged, as our video below shows.

Amazon Kindle DX Hands-On from Arik Hesseldahl on Vimeo.

So, who’s going to pay nearly $500 for an essentially one-purpose device? With the Kindle DX, Amazon appears to be beckoning professionals. While introducing the device to the press, CEO Jeff Bezos displayed Kindle versions of SEC filings, sheet music, pilot charts, and cookbooks. Clearly, he thinks the e-reader can change how many people do their jobs.

Amazon is also giving a kick-start to two potential markets for the DX: college students and newspaper readers. As previous reports predicted, the company is partnering with six universities to subsidize the cost of the device to select students; and the New York Times, Boston Globe, and Washington Post plan to offer discounts on Kindle DX’s to certain subscribers. Amazon and these partners will be watching and testing to see if these pilot programs are worth expanding.

Aside from these specific types of consumers, it’s doubtful the general public has much appetite for such a costly device. For $489, you can currently buy a high-end netbook with features the Kindle lacks, like surfing the Web and sending e-mail, or a smart phone.

“Typically when you broaden a product line, you try to expand the audience that you can attract,” says Avi Greengart, analyst with IT researcher Current Analysis. “Amazon has expanded up market, and actually come out with a product that’s considerably more expensive than a product that was already rather pricey to begin with.”

I spoke with Lauren Albert, a dedicated Kindle user who has purchased both previous versions. She was excited when she heard about a new, larger device but was a little taken aback by the price tag. Will she buy it? “I’m on the fence. I will probably pre-order it so I have the option, and save up my pennies this summer.”

By the way, BusinessWeek launched on the Kindle today - click here for more information.

Reader Comments

Kelly McCarthy

May 6, 2009 4:17 PM

Spending my day reading a blackberry and now a Kindle 2 has changed my perspective on reading small screen content. However, to capture the larger market, and capitalize on what sounds like a monstrous expansion in content - it's the next natural step.

There will be a range of products (like Apple has done) targeted towards different audiences. This seems like the natural first step.

Tony

May 6, 2009 4:19 PM

I'll wait until I see the Apple iTablet before upgrading the Kindle2 I got 3 weeks ago.

Educated Consumers

May 6, 2009 4:23 PM

Dear Amazon,

At that price, why doesn't it have color or a touch screen?

Yours truly,
Educated Consumers

thorn

May 6, 2009 4:26 PM

"who's going to pay nearly $500 for an essentially one-purpose device?

hm. do you golf? a musical instrument? you probably don't ice skate, but a lot of people do. how many dvd players do you have that only 'play' and don't 'write'? some people will pay twice that $500 for a pair of designer *heels*. what else can you use *those* for?

ok, now how many *bookcases* do you have? how much were they? how many books do they hold? (i can wait while you count.) and have you *read* the books on it or are they just set-dressing?

don't get me wrong. i'm not getting rid of the paper books. i'm just downsizing the future purchases of paper.

it's a chunk of change -- but it's not that bad if you're serious about reading (or about starting to read again..), and sick of paying to move boxes of books every time you relocate.

Bradley Looy

May 6, 2009 4:29 PM

How do people use a newspaper or magazine? They skim, they scan, they browse. This cannot be done on a big Kindle because the display updates so slowly. I suspect this version will die if another purpose is not found for it.

Mark M

May 6, 2009 4:37 PM

Mr. MacMillan needs to get his facts straight. You CAN check email on a Kindle, you CAN surf the web on Kindle, and it also plays MP3s. You also get huge discounts on books you buy from amazon.com if you buy with your Kindle.

So much for a "one-purpose device".

Mark M

May 6, 2009 4:37 PM

Mr. MacMillan needs to get his facts straight. You CAN check email on a Kindle, you CAN surf the web on Kindle, and it also plays MP3s. You also get huge discounts on books you buy from amazon.com if you buy with your Kindle.

So much for a "one-purpose device".

Mark M

May 6, 2009 4:40 PM

Also, "high end" notebook for $489? Keep dreaming.

livyatan

May 6, 2009 4:44 PM

Completely missed the boat. Without a color display, this thing is useless for I'd say 50% of the professional and student purposes out there that use colored font and images to realize information. Additionally, the lack of a color display makes it useless for looking at new releases of all popular magazines and scientific journals.

How many periodicals actually still print in just black and white? Maybe one, the WSJ.

Can it receive faxes and display them digitally?

Corporate device? - How many businesses are going to opt to alter workflow onto a $500 rigid electronic that's predecessor was replaced in less than 3 months? How many of them will wait for the color version? Maybe those interested in saving paper (someone else's paper, even).

How many students are going to invest in a $500 black and white display device that they can't email themselves portions of? How many universities are going to provide this for their students? Most students just resell their textbooks after the term is over, something they can't do with these electronic versions. I'm not seeing where the market is on this.

--

What's the hurry? They should've gone color and made deals with the major magazine publishers and actually changed the landscape of publishing.

Bradley Looy

May 6, 2009 4:47 PM

@(un)Educated Consumers: because the technology at a reasonable price is not there yet. e-Ink displays are required for the readability, long battery life, etc. but e-Ink color and touch are around the corner yet (cost-wise).

Dan

May 6, 2009 5:22 PM

The textbook publishers should offer their textbooks in an ebook format at a 50% discount to the hard copy price. That would be an incentive for students to buy the ebook, as it the same price as if they sold the book back to the store for 50% of the original cost. The students would also be able to retain the book. The publishers would save the cost of printing and transportation. The textbooks could be updated on an as needed basis, not just to destroy the used book market.

Sanjoy Ganguly/ San Jose USA

May 6, 2009 5:22 PM

E-Readers are like disposable Gillette blades. Good for periodicals and newspapers, since it may be cheaper, more convenient and good for the environment, but not as a repository of long term knowledge the simple reason being, content cannot be easily transferred inherited or shared with the gizmo. What if the Kindle breaks down, there goes my library of 4500 painfully selected titles. If the Kindle is lost or stolen I lose my Library! With paper editions of 4500 titles I can bequeath it to many parties. With a Kindle I will have to leave all my titles to a fortunate and maybe ungrateful sun of a witch. So you see I would use it mainly for newspaper and magazines but not much else. Specially textbooks! After paying over 50K for an academic year and to risk losing all that knowledge with a misplaced Kindle the risk is just too great. E-Readers in the long term will do well as E-Mags specially if they come in brightly colored panels with huge touchscreens below $ 350. Maybe publications will soon have their own readers with branding and logo on colorful panels. It will be interesting to watch.

Older Reader

May 6, 2009 5:39 PM

Amazon's Kindle introduction reminds me of Apple's introduction of the first Macs back in the early 1980s. It's not as exciting as going from the early IBM PC DOS experience to the graphical user interface of the Mac, with its desktop, icons, a mouse, and a drawing program, but I do think e-readers promise to improve the the user experience for certain applications by an order-of-magnitude over PCs.

Here is why it reminds me of those first Macs. The first Macs had a small black and white screen, limited software, and were very expensive. The first Macs were clearly only for the "first adopter types." Moreover, the first Macs were shunned by big corporations.

The Big Kindle is expensive, lacks color, still doesn't has a pretty small screen, and lacks content. But Bezos can always lower the price, add features, and content, just a Jobs did with the Mac.

I think we're going to see great, reasonably-priced Kindles in five to ten years. The premium one pays for a Kindle today over what one might think they're worth (or a price that would produce widespread demand) is for the opportunity to have one today instead of seven or eight years from now.

Jack Purvis

May 6, 2009 6:00 PM

Provided Amazon continues in business your collection of books and articles is fully retrievable in the event you lose or break your Kindle device.

Jake

May 6, 2009 7:50 PM

@Sanjoy Ganguly

If your Kindle is lost/stolen/broken all the titles are online. Amazon stores all the ebooks you buy incase something happens. I would actually like to put all of my Engineering text books on a kindle. I would not throw away the actual books yet because the colored E-Ink is not yet here, but I would like the text books in a hand held device.

@Mark M

The article said "high end netbooks" not notebooks.

Tom

May 6, 2009 8:39 PM

$489.00 and STILL no backlight? What a waste. I would consider buying one otherwise; the larger size is much better than the regular Kindle.

Since Amazon seems so enamored by their "digital ink" technology, I guess I'll just have to wait until someone else comes out with a model that can be backlit. Sony?

david wayne osedach

May 6, 2009 9:42 PM

It is a very attractive product and it keeps broadening downloads. But it needs to be a lot cheaper. Color and back lightening won't hurt either.

Deepak suri

May 6, 2009 11:06 PM

Kindle-2 is just a waste of Huge Junk of money in this recession. At least they could have offered something better for such a huge amount. Dont get flown away. Save money.

Joan

May 7, 2009 10:00 AM

Hmm. As a Kindle user, I was under the impression that my library is stored in the cloud - not just on the device.

I can see a HUGE market for trading electronic "used" books. Entrepreneurs: get cracking!

If you like to read, you will like the Kindle. Hey people: It's 2009 - time we stopped killing trees and wasting fossil fuel to ship paper books - which are just about the heaviest thing you can ship.

nobody.home

May 7, 2009 5:17 PM

@Tom / @David Wayne Osedach:

Kindle has no backlighting on purpose. If Amazon/Bezos stays smart, there will never BE backlighting. That's the entire point to the e-ink technology. Less battery, less eyestrain, more like 'paper' than an LCD screen. Want backlighting? Use a laptop.

remccain

May 10, 2009 9:11 PM

Not that I'm a millionaire marketing mogul, but a couple of things would increase the saleability of the Kindle.

1. Kindle "light" - without the integrated cellphone. Make it a bluetooth device and stream the content from your existing cellphone. It only makes sense - most people carry their cell with them, why buy another? Seriously, what genius in 2007 thought adding a cellphone to an ebook reader was the wave of the future? The reader and the eBooks should be affordable for the masses. Price of bluetooth vs cellphone & subscription anyone?

2. oLED color technology version.
1mm screen, color, flexible, and just a few milliwatts of power consumption.
Is it eInk? no. But eInk doesn't do color yet and color is necessary to hit a target Kindle market - hip, cool college students that would love all their course books on one device.
Instructors could publish their materials to Amazon, students could subscribe and have it pushed to their Kindle... life would be great. Makes me long for college again. Well, that and co-ed dorms.

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About

Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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