The May 6 announcement by Amazon.com of a new, larger, more expensive Kindle DX
electronic book reader is at once good news and possibly bad news, the stuff of
which old "Laugh-In" jokes were once made.
The good news is manifold: "a large 9.7-inch electronic paper display, built-in
PDF reader, auto-rotate capability, and storage for up to 3,500 books," as
Amazon.com itself announced. The display is 2.5 times larger than the 6-inch
display on my Kindle 2; the book storage capacity is roughly 233-percent greater.
Oh, yeah: the $489 price tag is about 136-percent of the Kindle 2's $359 price.
Overall, I should be happy, right?
I am, but I'm also worried. Partly because Amazon.com's people haven't (at
deadline) responded to my queries, I wonder just how good this new version will be
in performance. The Kindle2 is an enjoyable e-book reader, but there are still some
limitations. Will those limits increase with the new "DX" size?
Take the much-vaunted "PDF reader." This is important for many of the new
customers Amazon.com is aiming to reach, such as college students. Some textbooks
and other class materials may only be available in the Adobe Systems Inc. Acrobat
Portable Document Format, PDF for short. Ditto for some electronic versions of
daily newspapers, such as The Washington Times.
How easy will it be to get PDFs onto the new device? It could still be the
e-mail-and-pray current mode, and/or a wired transfer from a desktop computer to
the Kindle DX. That's in opposition to the one-click wireless download of
Kindle-formatted books, newspapers and magazines.
Once I've got a PDF open, how easily can I move through it, and how easy will it
be to annotate? According to a statement released by Amazon.com, "The Kindle DX
holds enormous potential to influence the way students learn," said Barbara R.
Snyder, president of Case Western Reserve University, in the statement. "We look
forward to seeing how the device affects the participation of both students and
faculty in the educational experience," Ms. Snyder added.
Well, if you can't underline a PDF textbook, or easily put notes in a
Kindle-format textbook, then a student - or their parents -- might be a tad
peeved. After all, $489 isn't chicken feed.
The larger screen size is a big plus: we're getting close to "full page" size
for a Time magazine or something like it, and that's good. The Kindle
"newspapers" that I've read - can digital "ink" really be called paper?
- is formatted far differently than a print newspaper; this will likely continue
in the "DX" version. Reading books, novels and the latest David McCullough
history, for example, should be even better on the new, larger screen.
But, wait: this is a device for the Case Western students, and for academic types
at Arizona State University, Princeton University, Reed College, and the Darden
School of Business at the University of Virginia, where trial Kindle programs will
be launched this fall. It's been ages, but I can recall a professor or two
saying, "Open your textbooks to page 425." If they do that now, can I
"jump" there in the Kindle DX? I can jump to "Location 11374" or something
like that in Kindle-speak, but can I get to a specific page?
The bottom line is a bit encouraging: more choices for e-book readers, more
features, more capability, and more storage. Now if the product lives up to the
hype, that'll be a pleasant surprise.