Unless you have spent your day completely disconnected from the internet, you have heard all about Amazon’s Kindle DX announcement. For those that haven’t, it has a screen that is larger than the entire Kindle 2, native PDF support, portrait and landscape viewing similar to when you turn the iPhone on its side and it is shipping sometime this summer for $489. Why would you want a Kindle that is 2.5 times the size of the Kindle 2, nearly double the weight and considerably more expensive than the Kindle 2? The Amazon Kindle DX will give you better reading of newspapers, magazines and textbooks, or so they hope.
There seems to be a ton of discussion about whether the new Kindle DX can save the print industry but I really don’t think it can do that for several reasons, the biggest one being price.
The Kindle has had a fair number of lovers and haters since it came out (I am a lover which you can see by the first part of my Kindle review and the second part which will be up soon), but one of the biggest criticisms it seems to face is the cost. Kindle 2 runs $360. Personally, I find it well worth the price considering most books are cheaper and you get a free Sprint EV-DO connection for the life of the device among other things but in the current economy it is too expensive for mass adoption. I think it is a hard sell to ask people to pay another $129 just for a larger screen to read newspapers and text books easier. I really don’t see the native PDF support as a big enough feature that would justify the price either, especially since you can easily put PDF documents on the current Kindle with Amazon’s handy conversion service. A device can’t be the savior of newspapers or magazines if it is so expensive that most people can’t afford it other than a few early adopters.
Speaking of money, it became known today that Amazon has a 70/30 revenue split with newspapers. That seems like Amazon is taking a rather large chunk considering there isn’t that big of an audience for newspapers to tap in to. If anything, I think this makes other mobile platforms better looking for distribution since companies like Apple or Google only take a 30% cut for putting apps on their marketplaces. I suppose some money is better than none when you are in a dying industry, but I think having to give up 70% is a bit much.
Another reason why I don’t believe that the Kindle DX is the savior that print media is looking for is that the larger size kills the portable factor that the Kindle is known for. One of the reasons I love my Kindle so much is that it easily fits into the side pocket of my laptop bag without sticking out or easily falling out. It is very easy to carry when I am carrying other books since they are approximately the same size. This is not the case with the Kindle DX. With the device having a screen size larger than many netbooks, by the time you throw in a keyboard and the standard Kindle buttons and joystick, it ends up being a rather large device even though it is supposedly as thin as the Kindle two. Something that large would most likely not fit in the side pocket of my laptop bag and if on the off chance that it did, it would likely be falling out constantly. The other big issue in my eyes is the weight. The device weighs nearly double that of the Kindle 2 (18 oz. vs 10 oz.) Personally, I find that the Kindle 2 is the perfect weight for the device. It is very comfortable for reading for long periods of time. With that large of a weight difference, I can’t imagine it being nearly as comfortable to hold during long periods of reading. If its not comfortable, many people wont want to spend hours on it a day to read all of their favorite national newspapers.
Finally, I think the changes to the physical UI are a step backward. The Kindle 2 has a very nice, clean and pleasant look. The Kindle DX has maintained much of that but seems to have made some sacrifices in the name of a larger screen. There are no longer any buttons on the left side of the device to change the page which many people who like to hold their Kindle in their left hand will find rather annoying. The right side seems to be a bit improved in my mind as it now as a previous page button, something that was a complaint of mine for my Kindle 2 as I often want to go back a page with my right hand instead of my left. For me, the thing that really hurts the physical design is the keyboard. It looks very scrunched and stretched at the bottom of the device to the point that it is kind of ugly in the way that the original Kindle was ugly. Otherwise it is very Kindle 2 like which is nice but those two issues are a drawback for me and I think the left button issue will be a real problem for current Kindle users that are looking to upgrade that mainly use buttons on the left side.
In the end, I think that Amazon’s Kindle DX will provide a very small increase in revenue for newspapers, magazines and textbooks but I guess it might be worth it for some companies if it is their only hope. I think that the largest determining factor of the Kindle DX’s success and its impact on the print industry is dependent on the price and at the current price point I think it will be a disappointment for everybody.